C.B. fire departments feel heat as volunteers go west
Firefighter shortage leaving some departments nervous as grass fire season begins
With grass fire season underway, some Cape Breton volunteer fire departments say their firefighters are too far away to battle the flames.
Last week, there were 130 grass fires in Cape Breton Regional Municipality. But at any given time, firefighters in the area may be receiving a different call – to work out west.
"Sometimes when you get that call you don't know when you get to the station how many guys are going to be on the truck when you get there," said Doug MacPhee, deputy fire chief of the New Victoria Fire Department.
Up to 40 per cent of the department can be working out west at any given time. MacPhee said he's worried about the department's ability to respond.
"They may be gone at two to three months at a time. Some are gone for two to three week rotations and that man power - if we have an emergency - really impacts the number of men you see on a scene."
Over 90 per cent of firefighters in CBRM are volunteers. Not only are they going west, but lobster season is opening soon. Some departments estimate they’ll lose another 40 per cent of their volunteers.
Jim Taylor, with the Glace Bay Fire Department, echoed MacPhee’s concerns.
"Jobs around here a few and far between," he said. "It's concerning to the fact we don't know how many fire fighters we are going to have at a serious call or any call."