Calgary

10-minute response times to be debated by council as Nenshi, union boss voice concerns

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he hopes city council will not create a two-tier model for firefighting services when it considers a proposal on Tuesday to permit slower response times in new communities.

Mayor says city not rigid but council should 'keep our principles strong' on emergency response benchmarks

City council is expected to vote Tuesday on whether the fire department should have a different response target for future communities. Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he hopes the city will not make a two-tier system. (City of Calgary)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he hopes city council will not create a two-tier model for firefighting services when it considers a proposal on Tuesday to permit slower response times in new communities.

Currently, Calgary's fire department aims to get to emergency calls inside of seven minutes, 90 per cent of the time.

Earlier this month, the city's planning and urban development committee voted to recommend that the benchmark response time for future communities on the city's outer edges be extended to 10 minutes.

Nenshi said he doesn't support creating what he calls a "two-tier approach," although he acknowledged that some future neighbourhoods will be more difficult to service than others.

"We have never been so rigid on this, saying that if you build one house in a new neighbourhood, you have to have a fire hall there," he said.

"We have always realistically understood there's a transition period, so I believe that if we keep our principles strong, that every Calgarian deserves emergency response, but also that we will do that in a way that doesn't shut off all development, I think there's an answer here."

Opposition comes down to safety, says union

Mike Carter, president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, told the Calgary Eyeopener Monday that his opposition to the plan comes down to safety.

Mike Carter, the head of the Calgary Firefighters Association, is opposed to the idea of extending the fire response time to 10 minutes for newer communities. (CBC)

"Absolutely it makes a difference. If we're just talking about fires specifically, they grow every 30 seconds," he said.

Carter said he suspects part of the reason council is being asked to make the change is so that developers can build new neighbourhoods more quickly.

"The problem is, as economics are dictating this, depending where the economics take us, will that forever be 10 minutes? Will it come back to the seven minutes? It's tough to say," he said.

Most other major Canadian cities have target response times of seven minutes or less, while the international standard is 6 minutes and 24 seconds, Carter said.

Fire Chief Steve Dongworth is also opposed to the proposal for a longer response time in new suburbs.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

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