Fredericton firefighters are switching to a new shift schedule that will see them on duty for 24 hours straight, followed by three days off.

Glenn Sullivan, president of the Fredericton Firefighters Association, said the union pushed for the new schedule.

Sullivan said the new shift rotation will ease sleep deprivation that occurs with the current shift of working two days, followed by two nights, and then have four days off.

"With the 24-hour [shift], you come in for that one night, and then if you have sleep deprivation from that night, at least then you have the ability to recover over three days before you come back to work," said Sullivan.

"Something that I've certainly noticed since I turned 40, accumulative sleep-deprivation over consecutive nights have certainly had an effect on my health and stress levels."

Sullivan said in circumstances like post-tropical storm Arthur last July, the current rotation of two days followed by two nights was too much to handle.

"I worked the night before. I came home the next day, I had to deal with my own emergencies at home with the wires fallen down and the trees blown over and I worked the entire next night, so , if I was on a 24, that probably would have been easier to cope with," he said.


Oromocto fire fighter Mitch Vail says sickness and overtime have decreased since the department moved to a 24-hour shift one year ago. (CBC)

Firefighters on the 24-hour shift will have a chance to rest when there are no calls overnight.

The Oromocto Fire Department started a trial with the 24-hour shift a year ago.

"Sick leave has gone down, overtime has decreased and overall I think the morale has gone up," said Mitch Vaile, an Oromocto firefighter.

Oromocto Fire Chief Jody Price said he wasn't keen on the shift rotation in the beginning.

"I looked at it and said, 'I don't know if this is really going to work,'" he said. 

"I'm not as leery of it right now. I found that there are some things that make it a little bit more efficient for us as a department operate under a 24-hour shift."

Price is reserving judgment on the 24-hour shift until the full two-year trial period is completed.

Fredericton's 100 firefighters begin their two-year trial with the new schedule on Sunday. After two years, either the firefighters union or the city may opt out of the new schedule.