Manitoba

Emergency response times to Waverley West area don't meet national standards

The Waverley West suburb of Winnipeg continues to grow, but response times for emergency services are well behind national standards and there is more pressure to build a fire hall in the area.

Calls for new fire hall increase as statistics show long times for response

A suburb of Winnipeg that's 'the size of Brandon' has no fire station, says councillor Janice Lukes. (Travis Golby/CBC)

The time for an emergency response to a serious call in the Waverley West suburb of Winnipeg is nearly double national standards, and one city councillor says the data should increase the pressure to build a new fire hall in the area.

The statistics come from Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Chief John Lane and were given to the area's city councillor, Janice Lukes.

The standard for response times in Canada, as set by the National Fire Protection Association, is that 90 per cent of serious calls get a truck on scene with four crew within six minutes and 20 seconds..

For Waverley West those priority-four calls — the term for life-threatening, active-fire emergency calls — the response time  is 11 minutes and 12 seconds.

Winnipeg as a whole fell short of the national standard, clocking a city-wide response time of 7 minutes 16 seconds.

"When you make that first call, and then [add] the number of minutes from when the call is made to getting in the truck, to getting on the road, to finding the location — it all takes time," Lukes told CBC News during a tour of the sprawling Bridgwater neighbourhoods in Waverley West.

The closest fire hall to the suburb is on Waverley Street at the edge of the Fort Garry and Lindenwood neighbourhoods.

Lane told Lukes in an email: "as more people move into the areas of [Waverley West] that are farther away from existing stations, the more calls that have longer response."

'That is a problem'

Lukes admits it took a few trips through the booming Bridgwater Forest neighbourhood before she got her bearings.

Thousands of people have moved into the suburb, filled with a mix of houses, side-by-side townhomes and apartment buildings, and there is more housing under construction at a half-dozen or more locations.

Lukes takes CBC News on tour through Bridgwater neighbourhoods and vows to halt further development there if a new fire station isn't approved. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Lukes says the response statistics help make her point — the region needs its own fire hall — but she believes the sheer growth of the area should have made planning to build one a no-brainer.

"All his data and his statistics are great. This is the size of Brandon. Brandon has 77 firemen and there's not one out here. So, that is a problem," Lukes said.

With still more room to build, Lukes says the time has come to put the brakes to even more housing and commercial development unless money for a new fire hall makes it into the city's fiscal plan for 2020.

"So once the budget comes out, if it's not in there then I'm going to do everything I can to slow it [development] down, because morally, I don't feel good about this," Lukes said.

Lukes' concerns have been echoed several times by the head of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg.

"It's just not right. I just don't understand the thinking of many of the politicians and how they can say that we're gonna do a four year budget and not include building a fire hall in the next four years in an area that's bigger than Brandon," said UFF president Alex Forrest.

A spokesperson for mayor Brian Bowman declined comment on the issue saying Bowman was taking time with his family for the holidays.

Alex Forrest with the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg says 'the density is amazing in Waverley West ... it just blows me away that we may have a budget that may not contain building a fire hall in the next four years.' (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

The head of the city's committee on protection and community services acknowledged the response times were not acceptable.

"That is concerning. You want that average time to be seven minutes; six minutes," Sherri Rollins said.

Rollins says she does support funding a new fire hall in Waverley West and it should be part of the budget in the coming year, but not before a strategic report on the location and number of all fire halls in the city is made available early in the new year.

"We need to see what their plan is in terms of the placement of the fire stations. That is part of what should inform the budget discussions," Rollins told CBC News.

'I hate to sound cynical'

Meanwhile, Lukes continues to worry there will be a tragedy in her ward, and is also concerned about the composition of hundreds of buildings in Waverley West.

Many homes and apartment blocks are made of modern construction materials, such as light aluminum plates and glued-wood materials, which are less expensive and more energy efficient.

However, as fire Chief John Lane warned in his email, the materials also create a higher risk for a "flash-over" when a fire does start in the building, because the materials burn "faster and hotter."

Because most of the homes in the new subdivisions are built of those materials, Lane says faster response times become even more critical.

Lukes worries it will take a fatal incident to get the focus on building a new fire station. 

"I worked in active transportation for 18 years. Someone dies, you get a new set of lights. Someone dies you get a sidewalk. I hate to sound cynical, but..." Lukes said.

Watch Lukes raise concerns in drive through Waverley West:

City councillor worries it will take a fatal house fire to get fire station built in expanding Winnipeg neighbourhood

CBC News Manitoba

1 year ago
2:09
Coun. Janice Lukes says the sprawling Waverley West area is sorely in need of a fire station, and she points to statistics that suggest response times to homes in the area are way below national standards. 2:09

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