Consultant recommends doubling town’s professional firefighters

July 15, 2015   ·   0 Comments

A consultant has recommended a doubling of the Orangeville Fire Department’s 10-member professional fire-fighting staff and construction of a new fire station and training facility.

A Fire Master Plan for the fire department was submitted to town council Monday night. Council asked Town staff to report back on priorities and timelines among the document’s more than 50 recommendations concerning the Town’s operational and fire protection needs.

Completed by T.L. Powell & Associates in conjunction with Cyril Hare & Associates Inc., the Master Plan addresses the current level of fire protection provided to residents and businesses of the Town of Orangeville and the rural municipalities that purchase fire protection from the department. It is designed to assist the fire department in determining the most appropriate delivery model for fire emergency services.

The report notes that the provincial government has gradually downloaded more fire-prevention responsibilities to municipalities, bringing them under pressure to achieve more with less.

In recommending organizational changes in the fire department, the consultants propose hiring a second deputy fire chief to deal with new mandatory requirements. An additional input clerk position is also recommended.

“The staffing of the department is expected to go through some major changes in the not too distant future to deal with the operational emergency demands of the public for the services and the mandatory requirements for fire inspections,” the report states.

Fire protection for the town and its neighbours is currently provided by a full-time staff of 10 working seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., supported by the 34 volunteer firefighters when additional staff are required at the scene of an incident.

The consultants recommend that the Town hire 10 more full-time firefighters to cover a 6 p.m.-6 a.m. night shift, and an additional five volunteers, and also that a new fire station be built to replace the one on Dawson Road, opened in 1972, by 2018.

Currently the department has three non-union positions, those of  the Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief and an administrative assistant. The 10 full-time members of the department belong to the Orangeville Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, local 4328.

In calling for a night shift of professional fire-fighters, the report said recent statistics show that reliance on volunteers has resulted in failure to meet the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ target of eight-minute response times “90 per cent of the time.”

The statistics, covering fire calls in the first half of 2014, showed night-time response times as long as 26 minutes in February.

It’s recommended that the current fee for service for fire prevention services in the rural municipalities be reviewed and revised to reflect the actual costs, and that the Town investigate the idea of providing fire prevention services for all Dufferin County municipalities.

The recommendations also focus on everyday operations, ranging from a review of water supply requirements to additional portable radios on each fire truck, to fire safety plans for targeted properties, and to the types of suction connections on future fire pumpers.

The study showed that there were 1,290  emergency calls in the town during 2013. Although the 2014 statistics were not completed at the time the report was drafted, “they do however, appear to be indicating a similar total for the year end.”

The report noted the fire department provides emergency responses to all incidents in the town. “In addition to providing fire protection for the Town of Orangeville this department has fee-per-call agreements with the Town of Mono, East Garafraxa and Amaranth Townships, covering approximately 259 square kilometers and a population of 35,000 people.”

It says the number of responses is generally trending upwards over the years as populations and the number of buildings increase. “The variations in the types of services being demanded by the public is also evolving from what was no more than a fire suppression role to a more general assistance and rescue role.”

As for financial considerations, the report acknowledges that the proposed new fire station and related facilities would have the largest impact on the capital budget and says that they should be financed over five budget cycles, with design and site preparation in 2016, construction of the fire hall and headquarters office in 2017-18, construction of a fire training facility and Emergency Operations Centre in 2019 and completion of landscaping, etc., in 2020.

It says staffing costs would be the largest operational budget cost and should be financed over four budget cycles, with a public education/fire inspector to be hired this year, four full-time fire-fighters in each of 2016 and 2017 and the final two in 2018.

The consultants said improvements to fire services could reduce residential insurance costs, resulting in significant savings for homeowners.

“Any increase in the tax rates to accommodate the costs of providing a full-time fire crew at all times, should be offset to the residents of the Town by a decrease in the fire insurance rate impacted by the improved insurance rating of the Town by the FUS (Fire Underwriters Survey).”

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