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Fire department budget could mean current resources stretched to new Calgary stations

A Calgary firefighter recruit class was held off this fall as continued uncertainty looms over city budgets.

That could leave upcoming temporary fire hall builds in a lurch as firefighter ranks are stretched to cover stations in Livingston (north Calgary) and Belvedere (east Calgary).

“We have concerns, when they get to opening these, where are they going to get the firefighters from?” said Matt Osborne, the spokesperson and Vice-President of the Calgary Firefighters Association. (CFA)

“We don’t have enough firefighters in fire halls right now.”

Recently, city administration decided against the closure of Fire Station 6 in the Eau Claire area. Those firefighters were going to the Livingston Station. Those firefighters will now stay.

During the budget adjustment in November of 2019, the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) deferred a $3.4 million temporary fire station planned for Livingston (north Calgary) to 2021.

That station is supposed to open early next year.

There were also capital plans for temporary fire and emergency response stations in Belvedere (east Calgary) for $2 million, and for south Shepard for $2 million.

But concerns about filling those halls are growing.

Already understaffed

Osborne said the CFD is already the lowest staffed metropolitan fire department in Canada.

Ideally, a full fire station houses up to 20 fire fighters to cover for the different rotations.

Osborne said firetrucks are supposed to be run with four people in them, but the CFD sometimes runs them with only two.

“When we find a fire, that takes multiple fire trucks and multiple firefighters to go and do that work,” said Osborne.

“So then when another emergency happens at the same time, it just continues…that’s the point of having enough firefighters.”

Osborne said he’s concerned about the budget and that a depleted fire department will not be sufficient enough to serve a growing city.

Plans to fill the halls

LiveWire reached out to the City of Calgary asking them to confirm that the new stations will be opened as planned. We also asked if they have plans to staff them since the recruit class was cancelled.

They didn’t answer these specific questions. Instead they provided this statement:

“The City is actively progressing the SAVE program, which has been directed to achieve $24 million in savings in 2021 and $50 million in 2022 in order to deliver modern and affordable municipal lines of service within our City mandate. The program is developing a business case to review Fire and Emergency Response Resourcing. Analysis is ongoing and, once it is complete, Administration will consider whether to make any recommendations to Council next year regarding changes,” read the statement attributed to Carla Male, Chief Financial Officer.