Windsor has more fire-related injuries than other cities

Windsor's fire service has had more injuries related to fires than 14 other municipalities in Canada, according to a survey of figures over the past three years.

Survey shows Windsor firefighters had slower response times than many other Canadian cities

A fire in Windsor's west end last month left one person dead and five others injured. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Windsor's fire service has had more injuries related to fires than 14 other municipalities in Canada, according to a survey of figures over the past three years. 

Statistics released by Municipal Benchmarking Network Canada shows Windsor also had slower response times and seen more structural damage in fires.

Windsor reported nearly 19 injuries per 100,000 people. Thunder Bay followed with just under 14 injuries per 100,000 population. Other municipalities were below 10 injuries.

Some residents in Windsor are getting injured because they are trying to save their property, explained fire Chief Bruce Montone.

"In a lot of cases, people are either re-entering the home or they're trying to fight the fighter," he said. 

Long-term problems

Fire losses in Windsor have been a long-standing issue, according to Montone, who says there is a plan in place to make improvements.

"We, over last 20 years, have not had a fire-loss rate we are proud of and we've been talking about that for quite some time," he said.

Determining causes for the injuries, damages and response times is difficult to narrow down, explained Duane Janisse, president of the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association.

The city, though, now reports injuries that don't require hospitalization, which could be skewing the numbers, he said.

Response times for Windsor fire sits around seven minutes and 21 seconds, compared to the median time of six minutes and 37 seconds for all municipalities surveyed.

Changes to fire service

Janisse also says an accident that paralysed firefighter George Copeland nine years ago also led to changes that require firefighters to fully suit up before they leave the station, which affects response times.

He says the new fire hall on Chandler street is poorly placed and he says the fire service has struggled financially over the past eight years because of the city's strong stance on freezing taxes.

"I think we need to focus on more public education, more fire prevention programs," Janisse said. "Our staffing levels are down."

Coun. Hilary Payne says council has not cut back funding to the fire service.

"The last thing the council would ever do is to cut back the funding for the fire department," he said. "That is totally wrong."

Payne says a reduction in trucks and a realignment to the fire halls a few years ago was necessary when an arbitrator ruled in favour of a shorter work week for the firefighters, which would have meant hiring 34 more firefighters.