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Fire department needs to grow 26%, council hears

Thirty-two more firefighters and two support staff are needed to respond to increasing call volumes, Fire Chief Cliff Warner says.
Prince George Fire Rescue 4
The Prince George Fire Rescue Service needs to grow by 26 per cent to meet the growing call volume, city council heard on Wednesday.

The Prince George Fire Rescue Service needs to add 32 additional firefighters and two support staff over the next four years, Prince George Fire Chief Cliff Warner told city councillors on Wednesday.

The fire department currently has the equivalent of 129.5 full-time staff, of which 100 are firefighters, Warner said. During a committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday, members of city council heard a consultant’s report on staffing levels for the fire department. The department has seen a 67 per cent increase in calls since 2015, but has not had a significant increase in staffing levels since 1995.

“We recognize it’s a big ask, but it’s the reality of what we have been facing for years,” Warner said. “The focus is, ‘are we understaffed to respond to a residential structure fire?’ It’s our requirement to respond, to get those people out if necessary.”

Currently, the department is understaffed to meet the National Fire Protection Association guidelines for the number of firefighters and fire engines which can get to the scene of a structure fire, he said.

The report also calls for the development of a fifth fire hall in the BCR area, a fire training centre in Prince George, and the purchase of another pumper/tender fire truck (at a cost of roughly $1 million) and a F350 medic unit at an estimated cost of $100,000.

Currently the Prince George fire department is required to send crews and equipment to Quesnel to do live fire training, which poses logistical challenges and takes crews away from the city, Warner said.

City administration will return to city council in future meetings with information about the budget implications for the recommendations.

“We want to protect the city, but that is a lot,” Coun. Cori Ramsay said. “Thirty-two firefighters is a lot.”