Nova Scotia

Halifax fire chief says station changes will not hurt service

The chief of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency says proposed staffing changes to a station in downtown Dartmouth will not hurt coverage in an area that is seeing increased development.

'There was an overlapping coverage in a number of our areas, which isn't a good use of resources'

Chief Doug Trussler says the target is to get a truck to the scene of the fire within five minutes, 90 per cent of the time, and eight firefighters to the scene within eight minutes, 90 per cent of the time. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The chief of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency says proposed staffing changes to a station in downtown Dartmouth will not hurt coverage in an area that is seeing increased development. 

Fire Chief Doug Trussler is recommending changes to several fire stations to reflect shifting population demographics, including:  

  • Lady Hammond Road in Halifax.
  • Patton Road in Sackville.
  • King Street in Dartmouth. 

"After extensive analysis and confirmation from three different studies, it was very clear that there was an overlapping coverage in a number of our areas, which isn't a good use of resources," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning.

He said those resources could be reallocated to an unserviced area in part of the core, providing better fire protection across the area.

The King Street station is currently staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with career firefighters. 

Trussler is proposing a new model that would see those professionals on site only during the weekdays. Volunteer firefighters would be on call overnight and on weekends.

Hundreds petition against changes 

However, hundreds of people have signed a petition saying that removing 24/7 full-time career firefighters from the King Street location would put people and property at risk.

There's also a public meeting tonight at Alderney Landing to discuss the changes.

The staffing proposal is coming back to regional council later this month and would need the green light from council before being implemented.

Trussler said the target is to get a truck to the scene of the fire within five minutes, 90 per cent of the time, and eight firefighters to the scene within eight minutes, 90 per cent of the time. 

He said the stations on Highfield Drive, the station at the corner of Second and Walker streets, and the Pleasant Street station means the fire service "can easily meet that target." 

"This is about reallocating resources to better match our risk," he said. 

Tim Rissesco, director of the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, disagrees and told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Tuesday that the proposal is not sufficient.

"When you consider how long it takes to get to a fire, it takes a minute or two for the dispatcher to reach the station and then a minute or two for the guys and gals to get on the truck and then to get downtown," he said.

"You're getting close to nine or 10 minutes in my opinion, and every moment counts."

'Every minute counts'

Rissesco also said fire professionals are usually the first emergency responders to arrive on scene when someone has a heart attack or gets into a car accident.

"It makes a big difference. Every minute counts and we'd like to have the fire service right in our downtown," he said.

Rissesco also raised concerns about the number of old wooden buildings in downtown Dartmouth, an area that's "seeing a lot of growth." 

Trussler said those types of factors, along with population density and other questions are considered when performing a risk assessment for a given area. 

He said 73 per cent of calls the King Street responds to are outside its own area.
 
The fire chief concedes that finding reliable volunteers has proven difficult in many rural stations, but in suburban areas, fire stations have had to turn people away because there's so many applying. 

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