After an evening of deliberation, discussions and disagreement, eight additional firefighters will help the Pitt Meadows Fire and Rescue Services (PMFRS) to shift from daytime to a 24/7 service model, a unanimous council vote during Tuesday’s meeting confirmed.
The change will come into effect in Q1 (between January to March) 2023.
During his presentation, Chief Larsson of (PMFRS) expressed several concerns that have been limiting the department’s efficiency.
The inability to tackle different types of fires and lack of experience in Paid On-Call (POC) firefighters were some that were mentioned.
Read: City of Pitt Meadows announces $47.7 million budget for 2022
“Fire department has not kept up to the rate of community growth in Pitt Meadows,” said Chief Larsson.
- According to data presented during the meeting, since 2007, 346 construction projects including car dealerships, townhouses, and condo buildings have been completed in the community, without the presence of adequate fire and rescue personnel.
- Councillor Gwen O’Connell alleged that many structures in the city do not have sprinkler systems installed.
- Additional data showed that the department received 716 calls for assistance as of November 22, 2022, compared to 774 in 2021.
- Most calls received have been for medical assistance.
Fire Chief Larrson presented options to the council, expressing the growing need for shifting to a 24/7 model, as calls for assistance after 6 p.m. continue to grow in the community.
To avoid burnout in firefighters, the department proposed hiring eight firefighters and one training officer in the first quarter of 2023, funded by taxpayer money.
With the proposed plan, the department will have additional three firefighters present to respond to emergencies between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
This would be additional to the POC firefighters, said Carolyn Baldridge from the City of Pitt Meadows.
Currently, eight daytime firefighters work seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Councillors expressed frustration and disbelief after the presentation of the situation.
During comments, councillor Bob Meachen implored that the council must unanimously approve of staff increase for the department.
“I too am concerned about safety after 6 p.m. And I have been, as some already know, involved in a fire myself. It was an apartment building, the fire started on the ground floor and I was on the fourth floor. I’m grateful the firefighters arrived on time that day,” he said.
But this change means an increase in tax for residents. However, councillor Tracy Elke said the issue is beyond money.
“I don’t care about the money. It’s frustrating that these guys [the fire and rescue department] have to come here and make a case. We don’t see such deliberations on police staffing or other recreational staff. This is not an optional but essential service,” said councillor Tracy Elke.
Residents are expected to pay 4.71 per cent in taxes, according to the proposed 2023 City Budget.
However, after this unanimous agreement to increase fire and rescue staff, residents should now expect to pay more in taxes.
This is a developing story