Equalizing fire services across Greater Sudbury could be costly: report

Sudbury city councillors heard this week that not everyone in the city can receive the same level of fire services without a substantial increase in the budget — and a subsequent bump in taxes.
The city's fire department is looking for ways to respond to calls in all areas of the Greater Sudbury — without increasing costs. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Sudbury city councillors heard this week that not everyone in the city can receive the same level of fire services without a substantial increase in the budget — and a subsequent bump in taxes. 

A report recently presented to the city's finance committee said fire service levels differ considerably depending on the area of Greater Sudbury.

For years, full-time firefighters only covered the old city of Sudbury, while the formerly outlying areas — including Hanmer, Lively, Chelmsford and Coniston — had only volunteer fire departments, and people in those areas paid lower tax rates as a result. 

Only recently have full-time firefighters been allowed to respond to calls in volunteer-covered areas. 

But, there is a push now within the fire department to make improvements to service everywhere without increasing costs.

Trevor Bain is the deputy chief for fire and paramedic services in Greater Sudbury. (Erik White/CBC)

"I'd hate to think that a full-time truck would be sitting only a couple of kilometres away when it could be participating in assisting," said Trevor Bain, deputy chief of fire and paramedic services. 

Changes are anticipated in the way that fire services are delivered so that the closest and fastest resources regardless of designation are sent to an emergency.

Another city council discussion on the topic is expected this fall.

Volunteers or part-timers?

The discussion on fire services also ignited a question from councillor Al Sizer about why the term "volunteer" is still used to described some firefighters.

"They are no longer volunteer firefighters. They are paid firefighters," said Sizer. 

Firefighters listed as volunteer — which essentially means part-time — receive a couple of thousand thousands each year for their service. 

"I would like for us to move forward on making that name change because it is not volunteer," continued Sizer. "It certainly skews the concept of what we're providing."

The fire department is preparing a report that will provide more details about the cost of delivering fire protection in Greater Sudbury. It is expected to be presented at city council sometime this fall.

With files from the CBC's Olivia Stefanovich


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