OTTAWA -- Ottawa firefighters responded to fewer calls for service in 2020, as many residents spent more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, a new report says there was a significant increase in the severity of the incidents responded to by firefighters last year, including water and ice rescues.

The Ottawa Fire Service 2020 Annual Report shows firefighters responded to 22,582 incidents last year, down 13.2 per cent from 2019. There were a total of 63,784 vehicle responses in 2020, down 12 per cent from the year before.

"This is the first time since 2014 that Ottawa Fire Services has experienced this level of response volume," said the report for the community and protective services committee.

"This decrease is a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic along with the implementation and enforcement of various emergency orders which resulted in the closure of non-essential workplaces and more residents spending more time at home."

Here is a look at the top five response types for Ottawa firefighters in 2020:

  • False alarm: 8,531
  • Medical: 3,410
  • Rescue: 2,932
  • Miscellaneous: 2,734
  • Fire related: 2,664

Firefighters responded to 1,086 fires in 2020, up from 1,008 calls in 2019.

The report says while there was a decrease in calls, there was a significant increase in the severity of the incidents being responded to.

"In 2020, Ottawa Fire Services responded to 176 water/ice rescues that represents an increase of 28 per cent compared to 2019," said the report.

"Ottawa Fire Services worked as part of the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition (ODPC) to increase awareness around the importance of water safety through social media campaigns, media events, handouts, and colouring books for children."


Ottawa's 911 line saw a drop in calls in 2020.

There were 294,259 calls to 911 last year, compared to 303,328 calls in 2019.

A report for the community and protective services committee says 64 per cent of 911 calls were for Ottawa Police, compared to 30.5 per cent for the Ottawa Paramedic Service and 3.1 per cent for fire.

Staff say there was a slight decrease in 911 calls in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and most residents staying home.