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Consultant calls for more firefighters
Report suggests city move from four on-duty members to at least six

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The City Of Yellowknife should consider having six or even eight full-time firefighters on duty at all times instead of the current four.

That was one of 30 recommendations presented to the city's Municipal Services Committee on Monday. The report was put together by Calgary-based consultants Behr Energy Services Ltd. and cost the city $110,000.

The city has not made the report available to Yellowknifer, which was allowed to look at it but was not able to leave city hall with a copy of it.

Behr spokesperson Jeff Carlisle was among two people from the company who presented the report to councillors.

He said one option is to continue to use the same number of firefighters.

"Option two was move your minimum duty strength to eight. That would require an increase I believe of 18 firefighters," said Carlisle. "Option three, which was the preferred option ... is to move your minimum duty strength from four firefighters to six which would require the hiring of eight additional (firefighters)."

Another Behr spokesperson, Rick McCullough, also recommended additional dispatchers be added to the dispatch team. He said there should be two dispatchers on duty at all times.

Coun. Adrian Bell was disappointed to hear the city's new dispatch centre, which moved from the pump house to the fire hall itself when the new water treatment facility opened last year, is not up to standard.

"We went from sharing a half position with public works to a pretty huge expansion. It took council some time to come to terms with that expense," Bell said. "Now to find out that we created a dispatch that is only about half the standard required is a little surprising and shocking."

McCullough said if the territorial government ever did implement 9-1-1 in Yellowknife, it would behoove the city to be in a better position to accommodate that, suggesting more dispatchers is one way to do it.

Yellowknife director of public safety Dennis Marchiori said the city will proceed with a degree of caution as it looks at implementing any of the recommendations that have been proposed.

"There are a lot of recommendations. But they are recommendations, and as consultants, that's what they do," Marchiori said.

"If it becomes adopted for information, then administration will look at the recommendations and sort through which ones we can work on and which ones we can't. Which ones require funding and which ones require further budget work."

Among the other recommendations is for the city to look at providing input for ground ambulances. The report authors pointed out that 86 per cent of calls for emergency services are for medical calls. They also said there are no written standards for medical services and paramedics. They added developing those standards would take input from the territorial government. The report also recommends the city do more to enhance post traumatic stress disorder supports for frontline emergency responders. It also calls for the city to continue its firefighter cadet training program as a way to cut down on the number of firefighters who leave the city after they have received their training. They pointed out that 19 of 24 full-time firefighters have left the city's fire division since 2010.

Coun. Niels Konge said the report was enlightening. But he does not like the fact that councillors were not given enough time to review it before they were to ask the authors about it.

"We got it at 5 (p.m.) on Friday. I read it quickly, but certainly have not had the opportunity to read it too in-depth," Konge said.

"I'm a little disappointed that admin has had it for several weeks and we get it on Friday. I don't think that's very cool."

About two dozen off-duty firefighters were in the council chambers for the report's release.

None were prepared to discuss it publicly with Yellowknifer.

The report will come back to MSC for further discussion on Nov. 7.

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