Vancouver firefighter raises alarm over highrise safety
Former union president says buildings getting higher while firefighting resources are shrinking
The proposal to build two new 45-storey towers in the Oakridge Centre development is raising concerns with a former president of the Vancouver Fire Fighters' Union.
Gordon Ditchburn is sounding the alarm about a city that is rapidly shooting skyward while its firefighting resources are shrinking.
Do we have adequate resources in the city? I would argue we don't- Gordon Ditchburn
Speaking on CBC's the Early Edition, Ditchburn says the number of firefighters has shrunk from a high of 900 in the 1970's to 800 today while the population has more than doubled.
"Do we have adequate resources in the city? I would argue we don't," says Ditchburn
"We are not keeping pace with the growth in the city, due to budget cutbacks, We've gone from 14 per cent of the city budget, 15 to 20 years ago, to less than eight per cent today."
Highrise fires tough to fight
Ditchburn says the city should hire more firefighters especially with the increase in highrisetowers.
"You've got to have more firefighters at the scene of a high rise," he says. It's a small city within a city, and when you're climbing and you've got line 45 stories and more, that's taxing on the body before we even start working."
Ditchburn says it will have taken a firefighter a minute per floor by the time he reaches the 45th or 50th floor.
With all that concrete and steel, he says there are also concerns about communication because their radios don't work well in those conditions.
"Quite often," he says, "we'll see each other, but we can't talk to each other."
Ditchburn says putting repeaters inside the building would help fix that.
The answer to Vancouver's fire safety issues, according to Ditchburn is better planning and more resources.
"What scares me the most is not having the proper resources in place," he says. "we need more personnel, trucks and equipment."