Fire services audit similar to tabled fire optimization plan

Sudbury city staff will look into cost-savings for fire services, but many of the recommendations look familiar.

Audit is 'more specific,' says auditor general Ron Foster

Sudbury fire truck up close
At the moment, Sudbury has about 116 career fire fighters and only five of those are women. (CBC)

Sudbury city staff will look into cost-savings for fire services, but many of the recommendations look familiar.

The city's auditor general presented his value-for-money audits for fire and paramedic services on Monday. Sudbury's audit committee decided to create business plans for:

  • a fire station location study to plan for the replacement of stations that are approaching the end of the line
  • the replacement of front line equipment that is or is nearing its end, where budgets are insufficient to maintain existing service levels
  • an additional fire prevention officer, a public safety officer, and two additional training officers to ensure all firefighters are trained for the community's needs

But these sounded all too familiar to Coun. Robert Kirwan, a member of the audit committee.

"I'm looking at something that's pretty similar to our fire optimization study," he said. "Are we looking at anything coming back that's different?"

Audit more specific than optimization plan

The fire services audit is based on information from Jan. 1, 2013 to April 30, 2017. Ron Foster, the auditor general, said this report has nothing to do with the fire optimization plan.

"We had planned to do these audits regardless of that initiative," Foster said. "What you're seeing in terms of recommendations are matters that were included in the scope of a value-for-money audit, regardless of any initiatives that came before council this year."

For example, the recommendation to look at new fire hall locations is similar, but more specific, Foster said. The review will only look at the oldest stations in Greater Sudbury, not all 24 locations or the facilities shared with paramedic services.

More training for volunteer fire fighters

The possibility of more training officers was good news for Trevor Bain, the city's chief of fire and paramedic services, and the general manager of community safety. He said the extra employees would make training more accessible to volunteer fire fighters.

"They have other jobs, and a lot of them are not available to train on a regular basis as career fire fighters are, so it's being able to have a flexible shift." Bain said. "I look forward to more opportunities to hire more volunteers so we can increase that number to what we've never had before — 350 volunteers."

Trevor Bain is Sudbury's Chief of Fire and Paramedic Services. (Erik White/CBC)

The similarity between the auditor general's report and the fire optimization plan has nothing to do with moving forward, Bain said.

​"The content of the report is simply that — content in a report," he said. "It's in the public, but the content and the process, we never got to that. I respect the role of mayor and council. They chose to make that decision and I'll abide by that."

Paramedic HQ to move?

The city's audit committee also asked staff to create a business case to move the paramedic headquarters from Azilda to a more central location.

The report shows employees spend at least 4,000 hours driving ambulances between the city and headquarters where staff control the medical supplies and re-stock the ambulances. That's because around 70 per cent of calls for service come from Sudbury.

It would cost around $15 million over 30 years to create a centrally-located headquarters, but this might speed up response times, the report states.

City council will discuss the business cases during 2018 budget talks later this year.