Staff changes for fire hall defeated

By Jillian Morgan

Halifax Regional Council has extinguished a proposal to staff three urban fire stations with volunteer firefighters.

Halifax Regional Council, by a vote of 11-5, defeated a motion Tuesday to make Lady Hammond and King Street fire stations volunteer-only on evenings and weekends and to convert Patton Road station, located in Upper Sackville, to volunteer-only staffing.

Lady Hammond and King Street stations would hire 15 volunteer firefighters, maintaining four person crews on each truck.

Some career firefighters would be relocated to Bedford, Eastern Passage, Cole Harbour and Lakeside, where there are currently gaps in coverage.

Fire chief Doug Trussler’s staffing recommendations generated debate from council and members of the public, in particular the proposed changes to Dartmouth’s King Street station.

Residents of downtown Dartmouth raised concerns over a volunteer-based fire station.

Councillor Gloria McCluskey, representing Dartmouth Centre, presented these concerns to council which included the area’s large population of seniors and its older wooden buildings.

Residents worried the station would be unable to attract enough volunteers and volunteers might not provide the same protection as career firefighters.

The cost of staffing three fire stations with full time career firefighters would cost approximately $2.1 million annually – supplementing stations with volunteer firefighters bring this number down to $529,397.

The decision to vote against Trussler’s proposal will mean hiring 52 full-time firefighters.

Other council members expressed confidence in the abilities of volunteer firefighters but many voted against the motion for other reasons, such as the risks created and public concern.

Trussler argued the changes would have improved Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s response times and opened up volunteer opportunities in the city’s urban core.