Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall wants to hire two full-time firefighters. (THE NEWS/files)

Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall wants to hire two full-time firefighters. (THE NEWS/files)

Pitt Meadows to talk firefighters

Meeting is Monday at city hall, 7-9 p.m.

Pitt Meadows residents will hear Monday that their on-call firefighters attend fewer medical emergency calls than fire departments in other cities.

However, the union that represents paramedics says ambulance response times have improved across the Lower Mainland with staffing increases and other efficiencies.

And union president Cameron Eby says Pitt Meadows residents can expect faster response times with a rest-and-ready ambulance station that’s coming to the city.

The special meeting is set for Monday at 7-9 p.m. at city hall, and will be a presentation by Pitt Meadows Fire and Rescue to offer facts about the department’s paid-on-call model, call volume, major incidents and medical call responses and current challenges.

A question-and-answer period will follow the presentation.

New Mayor Bill Dingwall has been a proponent of hiring two new full-time firefighters, at a cost of about $250,000 per year, and increasing the number of medical emergencies the department attends. There are currently five full-time members and 35 paid-on-call.

Dingwall said Pitt Meadows was compared with eight other cities in the 2016 Summary Report on Fire Rescue Services. That report found the paid-on-call staffing model works well, results in excellent response times, excellent turnout at calls, and low operating costs – an estimated one-third of what it would cost to run a career staffed department.

However, Dingwall said one of the revelations on Monday will be that the local department responds to fewer medical emergencies than the other cities in the study, based on service levels set by city hall.

Paramedics do respond to all medical emergencies.

Eby, president of CUPE 873, said in the most serious calls, where a life is in danger and seconds count, it is an obvious benefit to have firefighters responding. These are situations where a firefighter can do CPR, use a defibrillator, stop a significant bleed, or clear an airway and offer rescue breathing, he added.

“First responders have a role, for sure, if they can get there faster than the paramedics,” he said, adding that in most cities firefighters do have faster response times than paramedics because there are more of them, and more fire halls.

He said life-threatening emergencies represent about two per cent of all calls in Pitt Meadows.

For the other 98 per cent of calls, Eby said patient outcomes may not be improved by a firefighter arriving minutes ahead of a paramedic.

“If there’s a concern that there’s a delay in getting to those patients in the Pitt Meadows area … then we need to address that by looking at the staffing levels for paramedics,” he said. “They [the provincial government] have added staffing, and it certainly helps.”

In 2016, the province added another ambulance in Maple Ridge and Coquitlam as part of its province-wide paramedic staffing increase.

Eby added that fast firefighter responses are absolutely necessary for rescue situations, hazardous materials calls and vehicle extrication.

He said B.C. Ambulance now has some of the best response times for immediately life-threatening calls in the country.

Eby said the new rest-and-ready stop is like a satellite ambulance station. He works in one in Comox and said it will help Pitt Meadows ambulance service, with ambulances in the community and responding more rapidly.

“I would confidently say that, yes, that means there is going to be better response times.”

He also pointed out that the difference in the level of medical training between firefighters and paramedics is considerable. While most firefighters get a one-week course in emergency medical response, paramedics at the first level, primary, get a year of schooling, and that will be increasing to two years in 2019. Advanced care paramedics now take three years of training, and that will increase to four.

Eby said there is a balance to be struck between what cities can afford, and the value of increasing service levels. Some municipalities have firefighters attend medical emergencies simply because they already have career firefighters on duty.

“We have to look at the evidence, and that includes patient outcomes.”

Dingwall said there will also be other issues explored, such as attracting and retaining firefighters, and coverage of the city during times when paid on-call firefighters are outside of the community.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First time author Stacey Chomiak is releasing Still Stace in October, 2021. (Special to The News)
First time Maple Ridge author illustrates and writes about reconciling her faith and sexuality

Stacey Chomiak is branching out from a successful career in animation

The speculation and vacancy tax declaration must be filled out by the end of March. (The News files)
SVT declaration packages en route to homeowners in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

A penalty will apply to those, not exempted, who don’t pay by due date

COVID-19. (Pixabay)
COVID-19 exposure at Westview in Maple Ridge

Third high school reporting virus in 2021

A vehicle incident is blocking the eastbound lanes on Lougheed Highway at Jim Robson Way in Maple Ridge on Monday, Jan. 18, 2020. (Google)
TRAFFIC: Lougheed Highway cleared in Maple Ridge, expect congestion

Earlier, eastbound lanes at Jim Robson Way were closed

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
Small tin in Kootenay man’s jacket pocket saved him from stabbing: RCMP

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Most Read