More paid firefighters needed for 3rd Charlottetown station, says union
'The first couple minutes of any fire emergency are crucial'
The union that represents paid firefighters in Charlottetown would like to see the city hire more firefighters, especially now that it is planning to build a third fire hall.
Last week Charlottetown council voted to approve a third fire hall for the city, a plan that was two years in the making.
"Kudos to our council and management, they're moving ahead with some station recommendations," said Spencer Waite, president of the Charlottetown Professional Firefighters Association — the new union that represents career firefighters in the city. "We've always had great fire houses and equipment."
Waite said the union would like a four-person crew of paid firefighters around the clock at each of the three fire stations, supported by volunteers.
Right now the two stations have eight paid firefighters and 77 volunteers, as well as three fire prevention staff and three administrative staff. Eight of the volunteer firefighters are trained to backfill the career firefighters.
Currently, Station 2 on St. Peters Road is operated by volunteer firefighters and Station 1 downtown is staffed by a mix of career and volunteer firefighters.
'Time is of the essence'
"With that you've got two levels of service," Waite said. "With that comes some delays, unfortunately. No different than a rural department anywhere else in the province, you have volunteers responding from their place of work, their homes, whatever, so it takes some time to assemble — that's at Station 2."
In contrast, Station 1 trucks depart for fires shortly after the bell rings with one to three firefighters on board and get to fires in that district very quickly, Waite said.
"That initial response, the first couple minutes of any fire emergency are crucial — fire growth, car accident — time is of the essence," Waite said.
The union is now researching staffing models in other stations in Canada and the U.S., Waite said, and has a good relationship with city council and fire officials.
Charlottetown has more homes and apartment buildings than ever before, Waite said, and more manufacturing in the city that includes more hazardous materials.
"This is an ongoing issue," said Coun. Bob Doiron, who chairs the city's Police and Protective Emergency Services Committee. "It's been on record for the last number of years that the union has been asking for more full-time firefighters."
City council and the committee have yet to discuss staffing once the city adds a third station, Doiron said.
"We never had the opportunity to discuss how we're going to man it," he said. "The City of Charlottetown has been blessed with such good volunteers over the last number of years — and we're happy with the volunteers and we're happy with the full-time firefighters."
He said he believes the current mix of volunteer and staff firefighters is "doing the city well" and the committee is looking forward to sitting down with volunteers and staff firefighters to come up with a plan, he said.
The city has yet to decide where the third fire hall will go.
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With files from Angela Walker