Some city councillors in Thunder Bay need convincing before they'll agree to look at merging fire and EMS services.
Sudbury recently decided to put the two departments under one administrator. Officials in Thunder Bay are wondering if they should do the same.
Councillor Iain Angus said the city tried to merge police and fire administration about 15 years ago. However, after a trial period of about two years, the services were divided again into separate departments.
Angus said the experiment to combine those emergency services at the time didn't work, but fire and paramedic services are still looking for ways to save money.
"Right now EMS is dispatched by the province,” he said. “We want to bring that in-house, [consolidate] it with fire, and perhaps with police, to have a seamless service."
Angus noted fire and ambulance services in Thunder Bay are very different, with EMS covering communities across the district, not just the city.
Questioning cost savings
Councillor Rebecca Johnson said merging fire and EMS services makes more sense than merging fire and police services, when it comes to using resources as wisely as possible.
"If there is a call-out [and] both vehicles go … is that really necessary? Is there not a better way to provide those resources in a better manner?"
The merger of fire and EMS in Sudbury is part of a five-year plan to change how emergency services are delivered.
But Angus said he’s skeptical.
“It's really two different services, and there weren't that many synergies,” outside of combining dispatching services, so paramedics can be more effectively deployed.
The city of Toronto considered merging fire and EMS services this year, but a consultant reported there would be little cost savings.