Calgary

Calgary fire chief says he's unlikely to hire despite money for new recruits

It's unlikely the Calgary Fire Department will add to its ranks this year, despite the fact it has money for 20 new recruits in its 2020 budget. 

There's enough for 20 new recruits, but Steve Dongworth says he's reluctant after years of cuts

Calgary Fire Chief Steve Dongworth says he's reluctant to hire new recruits given budget cuts. (CBC)

It's unlikely the Calgary Fire Department will add to its ranks this year, despite the fact it has money for 20 new recruits in its 2020 budget. 

Chief Steve Dongworth says after facing big cuts in 2019, the department will have to be very careful about bringing in new bodies.

"We've had reduction exercises every year since I've been the fire chief in Calgary and I'm not seeing necessarily that next year would be any different," he said in a year-end interview. 

"So we have to be a bit cautious before we go out and hire people that we we wouldn't end up having to lay them off again for 2021."

Recent budget cuts

Dongworth said the fire department had a recruit class of 40 people ready to go earlier this year and then had to withdraw job offers to those people.

He said he doesn't want to see something like that happen again.

In addition to a lack of new recruits, Dongworth said response times will also suffer after budget cuts approved by council in July clipped fire and emergency response funding by 3.5 per cent. 

The slight drop in response will be in the tens of seconds, so most won't notice, but it puts more space between the current response time just shy of 13 minutes, and the long-term target of 11 minutes. 

Dongworth also says it will impact the department's ability to respond quickly to a larger, escalating fire.

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