Thursday, January 27, 2011

Statistically Stretched

According to my scientific calculations, volunteer firefighters respond to 97% of the emergencies that occur on Highway 17 between Ottawa and the Manitoba border. Don't say it. The idea of me making scientific calculations is funnier than a chimpanzee doing calculus, but I hasten to add that I actually exerted a little effort this time, unlike my usual research methods that rely completely on the shameless fabrication of facts.

The distance from Ottawa to the Manitoba border is 2000 km (for my US friends, that's 1242 miles). About 60 of those kilometres pass through the cities of North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay, which are served by career firefighters. The other 1940 kilometres are covered by either volunteer or composite departments. Put differently, it would take three eight hour days to drive across Ontario, according to MapQuest. Less than one hour of that time would be spent in areas with full time departments.

Of course the collision rates might be higher in urban areas, which would skew my 97% a bit, but no matter how you slice it, a big chunk of this big province is served by volunteers. I'm working on a similar "study" of the Trans Canada Highway from Glace Bay to Vancouver, and have gotten as far as figuring out that Canada is about 6000 km wide (yeah, you geography geeks have known that since first grade). Hopefully I'll finish the study before my scientific energy burns itself out. Alternately, if anyone knows of an accurate statistic that lists the urban centres along the Trans Canada, and is willing to send me a link, I would love to avoid all of that study and brain strain.

[Side note: Scientific study has it's drawbacks, chief of which is the effort required to build an intelligent theory. I much prefer blogging, which permits the writer to make up facts on the fly.]

Incidentally, according to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, 91% of Canadian communities are covered by volunteers. The flip side of that statistic is that 80% of Canada's population lives in urban areas that make up the remaining 9% of our communities. 91% of our communities are served by 20% of our population. No wonder the volunteer service is stretched to the breaking point.

Wow. I'm exhausted from all this statistical research, even though most of the figuring was done by someone else.

On the lighter side, but still the same topic, Paul Combs hits the bullseye in his most recent cartoon.

By the way, did you know that 87.2% of Canadians are bored by statistics?

(I made that up)


  1. Funny, and some of us Manitoban's can't get on a volunteer department if our life depended on it..... sad.

  2. I've never turned anyone away for any reason. The main requirements to join Upsala Fire Department are to be willing and have a pulse.

    Do Manitoba departments not need recruits?

  3. The stats are similar in the U.S.: Career firefighters handle more of the population, but volunteers cover more real estate. Props to vollys :)

    (formerly Switch 2 Plan B)

  4. So THAT'S where you've been all this time Brian. I was afraid you were gone for good.


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