Calgary Fire Department response times up to national standards.
Staffing shortages, combined with an unprecedented demand for
service, have led to a mounting strain on the CFD.
Canadian national fire standards target a response time of six
minutes for medical calls, and six minutes and 20 seconds for fires
90 per cent of the time.
Calgary's response time target is seven minutes.
Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness, who led a notice of motion being
introduced by the councillors, said the report would explore
potential costs and timelines to improve fire service in the city.
"We ask firefighters to run into burning buildings, but then we're
not really listening when they say they need more support," Wyness
said. "This is an ask for information and an ask to truly understand
the situation our fire department is having to work in."
The notice of motion directs administration to compile a report on
resources needed to meet national firefighter staffing standards,
along with potential timelines and an idea of risks faced by Calgary
firefighters. Administration would also compile a funding approach
for the 2023-26 budget.
Matt Osborne, spokesman for the Calgary Firefighters Association,
told council last November the department was "stretched to the
breaking point," and called for an additional $10 million in next
year's budget to hire 56 firefighters.
"With our current staffing levels, it's safer to live in Edmonton,
Vancouver and Toronto than Calgary," Osborne said, pointing to data
that suggests the city is not currently meeting the National Fire
Protection Agency standard of four firefighters per rescue truck.
"Calgary is the lowest-staffed metropolitan fire department in
Council approved the $10-million request last December, which added
up to a full percentage point on the tax rate increase. However, fire
Chief Steve Dongworth previously told Postmedia the department would
advocate for additional funding in the next fouryear budget cycle to
continue to address staffing concerns.
Along with staffing shortages, Calgary firefighters are responding
to more overdose, medical and fire calls across the city. Overdose
responses alone rose by 54 per cent between 2020 and 2021. Strains on
the EMS system have also led to firefighters staying on such calls
for longer, as they wait for medical professionals to arrive.
Along with Wyness, the notice of motion is sponsored by Ward 1 Coun.
Sonya Sharp, Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian and Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean.
There's an understanding across council that the city's challenges
are building, Mian said, and the motion would provide the first step
to addressing issues faced by the fire department.
"Public safety and ensuring that our emergency services are
appropriately resourced is one of our most core responsibilities in
my view," Mian said.
"What we're looking for is a path forward. This is not a commitment
of resources, but an estimate of what would it take to get us up to
that NFPA standard."
As the city's population grows, Sharp said council needs to make sure
there are enough firefighters to serve Calgarians.
"If we wait longer to look at increased funding, or making sure
the fire department can hit their target response times, this could
be a detriment to our city."
The previous city council debated response times in 2018, when some
councillors wanted to stretch the city's fire response time from
seven to 10 minutes to allow for more suburban growth.
At that time, council rejected relaxing the benchmark, while keeping
the door open for developers to
build in areas that fall outside the targeted response time.
The notice of motion will go to the executive committee for review on
March 15. If approved, council could consider the motion at the next
council meeting on March 29.
With files from Dylan Short and Meghan Potkins firstname.lastname@example.org
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