Nova Scotia

Halifax fire station staffing proposal is safe, fire chief insists

Halifax's fire chief insists it's safe to scale back paid firefighter staffing at two fire stations, but regional council won't make a final decision on the plan until in the new year.

Fire officials want two stations to be turned into E Platoons and served by volunteers after hours

Halifax's fire chief says changes being proposed a three Halifax-area fire stations are safe. (Cassie Williams/CBC)

Halifax's fire chief insists it's safe to scale back paid firefighter staffing at two fire stations, but regional council won't make a decision on the plan until the new year.

Fire officials want Station 4 on Lady Hammond Road in Halifax and Station 13 on King Street in Dartmouth to be turned into E Platoons. That means paid firefighters would be at the station during the day, while volunteers would head to calls the rest of the time.

"I think twice as many calls come in during the day as in the evening" said fire chief Doug Trussler. "I can tell you that, for example in [stations] 4 and 13, over 70 per cent of their calls aren't even in their own areas."

Regional council voted down a fire department recommendation last spring to close stations on Lady Hammond Road, King Street and Patton Road in Upper Sackville. 

Proposal debate

Councillors then asked for a follow-up report on staffing levels of the fire service. 

But Dartmouth Centre Coun. Gloria McCluskey said she still doesn't understand why changes to the stations are even being considered.

"We usually fulfill commitments," said McCluskey. "It's disrespectful to all the people we told that they'd keep their station."

Waye Mason, the councillor for Halifax South Downtown, supports the proposal because he believes firefighters no longer needed at the stations can be shifted to busier spots. It means more trucks will have four firefighters on board, instead of two.

"We need four people on a truck," said Mason. "And this gets us there in a way that is most efficient when it comes to resources and taxpayers's money."

Volunteer-only stations

The proposal also involves turning Patton Road into a volunteer-only station. The councillor for the area does not think that is possible and asked his colleagues to delay voting on the matter until he meets with Trussler.

"There are a number of solutions that staff have not seemed to want to consider," said Coun. Brad Johns. "I don't think that's fair."

The proposal will be back before regional council at its first meeting in January. 

The CBC's Pam Berman will be live blogged from council Tuesday.

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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