Yellowknife decides to hire firefighters in 2018 after all

The City of Yellowknife has brought the hiring of four new firefighters back into the 2018 budget.

Coun. Shauna Morgan says families will sleep better knowing fire department well-staffed

Lt. Adam Catcher, senior firefighter Justin Zawyrucha, Lt. Deiter Andre, and senior firefighter Jamie Stringer observe budget deliberations in Yellowknife on Dec. 6. Stringer, who is also the vice president of the local firefighters union, says they prepared for the worst, but the decision is a win for everybody. (Gabriela Panz-Beltrandi)

The City of Yellowknife will hire four new firefighters late next year, a reversal of plans contained in the 2018 draft budget to defer that hiring until 2019.

On Wednesday evening councillors unanimously voted to bring that hiring forward to October 2018 instead.

The city already hired four of the eight new firefighters recommended in a 2016 consultant's report to address burnout and understaffing at the Yellowknife Fire Department. The remaining four firefighters were to be brought in late 2018, but the draft budget postponed the hire until 2019.

Coun. Shauna Morgan saw risk in leaving the fire department at existing staffing levels, saying it could impede the department's ability to respond to more than one emergency at a time.

"I don't think families in this city would sleep well at night knowing that we're only somewhat understaffed now in terms of our emergency first responders," Morgan said.

"I think we should actually maintain that momentum and get those staff in place as soon as possible so we can move forward and at least have the minimum levels that are required."

More than a dozen firefighters were in council chambers to witness budget deliberations concerning the deferment, just as they did on Monday and Tuesday night.

"We had all been getting ready for the worst, and this is such a pleasant surprise and the best possible outcome for the citizens and us," said Jamie Stringer, vice president of the local firefighters union.

"Everyone's winning today."

The city estimates it will cost $93,000 to fill those four positions for the final three months of 2018.

With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi

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