The B.C. heat wave is placing first responders and emergency personnel under great strain.
Earlier today, Burnaby RCMP stated that over 25 sudden deaths, primarily amongst seniors, are suspected to be related to the heat wave.
The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is now also reporting that there has been a huge spike in sudden deaths.
VPD spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison announced today (June 29) that the police force is “stretched thin” due to this “unprecedented” event.
As of 1:45 p.m. today, Vancouver officers responded to over 65 sudden deaths since the heat wave began on June 25.
By 1:45 p.m., police had responded to 20 sudden deaths today alone, and over 12 more cases were waiting for police to be dispatched.
For comparison, Vancouver police—working with Vancouver Fire Rescue Services, B.C. Ambulance, and the B.C. Coroners Service—usually respond to about three to four sudden deaths per day. During the heat wave, police have responded to an average of 14 sudden deaths per day since June 25.
More casualties are being reported by the hour.
Addison said that the “vast majority of these cases” of deaths are due to the high temperatures. He added that a lot of the cases are being reported the next morning by someone who discovers a loved one had died during the night.
“Vancouver has never experienced heat like this, and sadly dozens of people are dying because of it,” Addison stated. “We’ve never seen anything like this, and it breaks our hearts.”
This surge in deaths has depleted frontline resources and causing delays in response times from police. In response, the VPD is redeploying “dozens of officers”, including from the investigation division and calling in off-duty officers.
Yet as it may take several days for operating levels to return to normal, the VPD is “pleading for people to only call 911 during emergencies”.
B.C.’s E-Comm 911 service had announced earlier today that 911 calls broke records this past weekend and that there are delays due to high demand.
Meanwhile, Richmond RCMP stated that officers responded to four sudden deaths from June 26 to 28. Richmond RCMP Cpl. Ian Henderson noted that this number did not diverge from the norm and the B.C. Coroners Service will determine whether or not the deaths were related to the hot temperatures or not.
B.C. Coroners Service chief coroner Lisa Lapointe issued a statement this afternoon.
She explained that the service usually receives about 130 reports of death over a four-day period but from June 25 to 3 p.m. on June 28, there were at least 233 deaths reported in the province, and the number is expected to increase.
"Coroners are carefully gathering all information available for each death reported, to determine the cause and manner of death, and whether excessive heat played a role," Lapointe stated.