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Calgary fire department response review requested by city councillors

A Calgary city councillor said more research needs to be done to understand how the city can meet fire protection standards.

Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness has a notice of motion coming to Tuesday’s executive committee meeting that would direct administration to examine what city investment would be needed for the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) to reach National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.

The motion is co-signed by Couns. Jasmine Mian, Sonya Sharp and Dan McLean.

Along with NFPA resources, the motion asks for a review of risks facing the CFD and “associated mitigation strategies.”

The NFPA standards outline the number of firefighters per vehicle, and the number of firefighters required to respond to emergencies. The CFD has long said they don’t have the staff to meet NFPA standards for protection.

In last November’s budget adjustment, firefighters got $10 million to add 62 personnel. Still, that was to address attrition and to boost leadership training positions.

Coun. Wyness said this isn’t a commitment to fund an increase, but they do need the information to make a decision for the future. Calgary will put together a new four-year budget this November.

“If we don’t actually get the information and do the research, we’re never working in facts. We’re always working in assumptions,” she told LiveWire Calgary.

Future protection for a growing city

The city must think about the next 10 years, Wyness said, particularly as the downtown revitalization takes hold and more people are living 24 hours in the core.

“I think it’s important that as we’re so focused on our downtown core that we’re making sure that we’re building it as safe as possible,” she said.

Wyness also said there’s a lingering question around how improved fire protection could save Calgarians cash on their home insurance.

The Calgary Firefighters Association said they welcome the examination. They’ve been advocating for resources to reach NFPA standards.

“This is a critical step that will help the Fire Department address the challenges of a growing city,” said Codey McIntyre, president of the Calgary Firefighters Association.

“This will allow the Fire Department to put resources towards the hazards of downtown high-rise fires, respond to more frequent and extreme weather events, and support our move towards a more diverse Fire Department that is representative of the city where we work and live.”

The notice of motion asks for work to be complete by June 2022. It would inform the 2023 to 2026 budget deliberations.