Fire chiefs seek better deal for rural coverage

Fire chiefs across New Brunswick are getting together to renegotiate how they provide fire service to people living in rural areas near municipalities.

Moncton Fire Chief Eric Arsenault says city taxpayers are subsidizing rural neighbours for coverage

Fire chiefs across New Brunswick are getting together to renegotiate how they provide fire service to people living in rural areas near municipalities.

Moncton's fire chief says taxpayers are subsidizing the cost of fire protection for people who live just outside the city limits.

Chief Eric Arsenault says Moncton taxpayers are subsidizing the cost of providing fire coverage outside city limits. (CBC)
It costs Moncton taxpayers almost $16 million annually to pay for the fire department.

The Moncton department responds to between 75 and 100 calls a year from people who live in the Parish of Moncton, just outside city limits.

Arsenault says the $193,000 the city receives annually from the provincial government to provide fire coverage in outlying areas isn't enough to cover the cost of the service and amounts to city taxpayers subsidizing fire coverage for their rural neighbours.

"There is a large expense that the taxpayers of Moncton pay for fire service," said Arsenault. "We have buildings, we have vehicles, we have professional, paid firefighters that are all funded by City of Moncton taxpayers."

Arsenault says there's no consistency in how fire services are funded in unincorporated areas.

In some areas the province pays for a fire department while other areas have volunteer fire departments. And in others, the fire department in a neighbouring municipality responds.

Arsenault says all those contracts are up for renewal in 2015 and the province's fire chiefs want a better deal and will work together to negotiate a more equitable deal for all taxpayers.

"This is an issue that is also being discussed at the New Brunswick Association of Fire Chiefs," he said.

"We really need to look at the service we're offering the [local service districts] and see if it is actually a fair service when you compare what a municipal taxpayer has to fund the fire service for versus someone who chooses to live outside the municipality," said Arsenault.

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