News Views: Alarm bell

Pitt Meadows Coun. Bill Dingwall wants the city to add at least two full-time firefighters.

Currently, the department deploys firefighters paid per call. It has five full-time paid members, including a fire chief and two assistants.

Dingwall, a former RCMP officer, said Pitt Meadows is one of the last fire departments in the Lower Mainland that is primarily paid on-call and suggests safety would improve with more full-time members.

According to a consultant’s report contracted by the city, response times by the Pitt Meadows fire department average eight minutes, an excellent standard.

Adding just two full-time staff would increase the city budget more than $200,000 a year.

In Maple Ridge, which has full-time firefighters, the department’s budget is almost 10 times that of Pitt Meadows, while the population difference is closer to 4:1.

You can’t put a price on life, although the rest of Pitt council sides with the consultant’s report, which cost $60,000 and suggests the city can get by without full-time paid firefighters.

Lives are no more at risk with the present model.

Fire chief Don Jolley is confident that Pitt Meadows has an effective system.

Dingwall contends that firefighters have to respond to more medical calls than ever, and cited the shortage of ambulances in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, the source of a recent petition, and the pending addition of naloxone kits for drug overdoses.

However, Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker said ambulance services are a provincial responsibility.

MLA Doug Bing is on side with adding another ambulance.

Adding full-time paid firefighters is seen as unnecessary by all but Dingwall.

But we hear the alarm bell. Pitt Meadows, though, shouldn’t have to accept more downloading from the B.C. government.

– The News


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