Nova Scotia

Halifax fire chief says 'system under strain,' seeks 10 more firefighters

Ken Stuebing has asked regional council for approval to train 10 extra firefighters to help improve response times in Bedford and Sackville.

Fire Chief Ken Stuebing says cost would be offset by decrease in overtime budget

Halifax Fire Chief Ken Stuebing says firefighters are not always meeting the recommended response times in Bedford and Sackville. (mat277/Shutterstock)

Halifax's fire chief has asked regional council for approval to train 10 extra firefighters to help improve response times in Bedford and Sackville.

Ken Stuebing said Wednesday that data collected between 2018 and 2021 shows that out of 26 calls in Bedford, a full firefighting force was only deployed twice within the recommended time of 11 minutes, or eight per cent.

In Sackville, it was zero out of 21 calls.

"This is a system under strain," Stuebing told the budget committee. "I can't fix the problem overnight — I can just chip away at it."

The maximum number of firefighters trained in one session is normally 20. Stuebing has proposed training 30 in February 2023. He said salaries would be offset by a decrease in the overtime budget.

"We're still working on where to put those firefighters. The reality is Bedford backs up Sackville, and Sackville backs up Bedford," said Stuebing.

Decision to be made later this month

The councillor for Lower Sackville said he supports the move.

"We have absolute proof that the service is lacking. This is going to be incredibly helpful," said Coun. Paul Russell.

A final decision on the proposal will be made when regional council considers a complete list of budget extras on March 23.

Overall, the fire department has asked for a 1.9 per cent increase to next year's budget for a total of $78 million.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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