The popularity of Hamilton’s trails and waterfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic coincides with an increase in emergency calls to those natural areas.
Hamilton fire Chief Dave Cunliffe has confirmed, as part of a budget presentation to city council on Thursday, that his department was involved in 20 rope rescues from April to December last year.
Cunliffe says that number is up from nine in 2019, “just the fact that people are wanting to get out into nature and enjoy some of that fresh air, and they’re getting off the beaten paths where they’re supposed to stay.”
He adds that the rescues happened in the Dundas area, at Tews and Webster’s Falls, in the Albion Falls area and even in “hiking areas in the Waterdown area, for example.”
A presentation to city councillors also shows that the number of burn complaints soared last year, from 517 to 922 in Hamilton.
On the other hand, Cunliffe says firefighters responded to 678 motor vehicle collisions in 2020.
That’s down by about one-third, from 1,004 in 2019, with fewer cars on the road during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.
Overall, general manager of healthy and safe communities Paul Johnson is seeking a 3.3 per cent increase to the tax levied portion of his departmental budget in 2021.
He notes that the pandemic has placed a variety of pressures on his department, which includes emergency services and recreation, housing, public health and management of the city’s two long-term care homes.