nb-kevin-clifford

Saint John Fire Chief Kevin Clifford said a regional fire service would better protect the greater Saint John area. (CBC)

Saint John Fire Chief Kevin Clifford says a regional fire department would leave the greater Saint John area better protected and it would not cost more money.

Clifford said this week he supports the idea of one collective fire department, instead of three.

And the Saint John fire chief said it also makes good economic sense.

"We keep our money they keep their money we could still be a better service,” he said.

Clifford also said the switch to a regional fire service does not need to cost suburban communities, such as Grand Bay-Westfield and Quispamsis, more money.

He suggests simply joining the fire departments with every council paying what they now pay. He said fire trucks would automatically be sent to neighbouring communities in an emergency

"We'd be a better service if we didn't have to ask because when I have to send a truck out Loch Lomond Road or send a truck in Millidgeville, nobody asks for that to go, it just goes,” he said.

Regional opposition

Clifford’s opinion is not gaining much traction in the communities that would also be affected by a regional fire service.

"I would say at this point we're not ready to make that change,” said Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Grace Losier.

'One would have to demonstrate what the service would be and whether or not our community would get the same service as we now get, whether we would have the same equipment and the same station.' - Quispamsis Mayor Murray Driscoll

Losier also said her town’s fire department is primarily a volunteer service that already works well.

Quispamsis Mayor Murray Driscoll said there is no appetite for that kind of change in his town.

"One would have to demonstrate what the service would be and whether or not our community would get the same service as we now get, whether we would have the same equipment and the same stations,” he said.

Driscoll said the departments are already linked through mutual aid agreements.

This is not the first time that Saint John politicians or staff have advocated for greater regional co-operation and had the idea dismissed by those in nearby communities.

In August 2013, Saint John Mayor Mel Norton was pushing for more regional co-operation at the Fundy Regional Service Commission.

But that idea also fizzled out.