Langley Township doesn’t need more paid firefighters

As of 2010, fire crews are doing an average of 1.9 calls per day per hall.

Editor: I have a couple of questions and some information concerning The Times article of March 8, “Expect more injuries if crews aren’t increased.”

The story stated that the injury rate among Township firefighters is below average, but the number of injuries will increase if the number of personnel in a crew is not increased to four from three.

Andy Hewitson, president of IAFF local 4550, lobbied Township council on Monday (March 5) to fast-track the hiring of eight more firefighters so that the four-man minimum standard can be met now.

“It will increase if the three-man rate continues and crews keep pushing themselves,” he said.

First, where are all these injuries coming from, as “the injury rate among Township firefighters, according to IAFF information, is below average?”  Are we also led to believe that fastracking of more hires for the fire department would save the crews from pushing themselves?

I looked into getting some statistics from the Township and fire department, to confirm or deny the desparate situation according to IAFF local 4550, and the offending or constraining Worksafe B.C. requirements. Neither the Township nor fire department were interested in sharing any stats for the local fire halls, even though other safety agencies post call volumes to the public.

I had to apply for a Freedom of Information document for something I was unaware was so secret.  According to the latest statistics provided (2010 stats), the crews that are pushing themselves are doing an average of 1.9 calls per day per hall. They’re pretty busy.

There were 4,799 incidents over the year, responded to by the seven  Township fire halls. Now I understand their hesitancy in sharing the stats. A normal shift for EMS in downtown Vancouver was 20-plus calls per 12-hour shift, two years ago.

What exactly are four or eight more of these full-time folks needed for then?

It’s not the call volume, so what about the Worksafe regulations that are apparently being flaunted recently? It turns out that the Worksafe guidelines on entry into buildings have been on the books since April, 2000, so what’s all the hot air about recently? Where’s the dire need for something that this and other fire departments have been working under for almost 12 years?

They used to (and still can) use paid on-call fire department members to abide by the regulations. They doesn’t stipulate full-time or paid on-call members.

I couldn’t find any provincial mandate about fire departments being first at MVAs either. It used to be under the discretion of each municipality or fire department which incidents their staff would respond to.

Anyway, there are some discrepancies in this union local’s needs analysis, or else there’s more information out there that’s not being shared.

As a taxpayer in the Hopington rural area, I would like to see some more fire department hires after we get some water infrastructure out here, like the rest of the Township enjoys.

I do not need another hit to my taxes for eight more folks to do 1.9 calls per day, thank you very much. Maybe the fire department union should put some energy into a revenue stream for the Township, such as a casino, light or heavy industry first, before its worthy but prematurely untimely proposal of $1 million-plus per year for wages and benefits?

It seems some of the package is unsubstantiated from this angle. Please share what you have with us.

By the way, I spent some of my best career years within fire halls, but my point is to concern oneself with facts, not emotions.

Rick Manuel,

Langley

Langley Times