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Sidney rejects request for more firefighters

Mar 08 2012

The Town of Sidney has turned down the fire department’s request to hire four more firefighters, despite dire warnings of the implications of not doing so.

Fire chief Jim Tweedhope raised concerns that medical calls involving seniors could go unanswered if only one of the four full-time firefighters is available.

Firefighters have to respond in pairs and the 37 volunteers are often unavailable during weekdays because they are working full time.

While the department hasn’t had a major fire since the Blue Peter Pub burned down last July, Tweedhope said firefighters are often the first to arrive at medical calls, since there are only two B.C. Ambulances in Sidney.

Tweedhope also said in the event of an apartment fire, any delayed response due to a lack of available firefighters or volunteers could reduce the likelihood of rescuing people trapped in the building.

The request was denied at Tuesday’s council meeting, at which the 2012 budget of $18,298,881 was approved. Council approved a

2.81 per cent tax increase, which Mayor Larry Cross said works out to a $27 a year increase for average homeowners.

Tweedhope had proposed hiring four firefighters over four years at a cost of $322,164.

“[The cost per resident] worked out to about a dollar a month for each firefighter … which is a pretty easy pill to swallow,” Tweedhope said.

Cross said before any new firefighter positions are created, the council wants to be sure the department has explored all options, including “creative approaches to volunteer recruitment.”

He said the department could do more to attract women and could better acknowledge the contributions volunteers make.

The council did kick in $10,000 for an improved volunteer recruitment campaign.


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