The spat over hiring more full-time firefighters in Pitt Meadows is about more than money.
The previous council, and those before it, balked at such a move.
The cost, as pegged by city staff, to hire two more career firefighters is negligible at $28 a year for a single-family household, and $15 annually for those in multi-unit dwellings.
Yes, that could sting for some, and more so as the city adds even more career firefighters, as Mayor Bill Dingwall stated is the intention during Monday’s special meeting at municipal hall.
The cost, for now, seems low, especially given what the city would be gaining – having more full-time firefighters can only improve response times and public safety, even if they can’t transport to hospital or administer drugs.
And city CAO Mark Roberts said that Pitt Meadows Fire Chief Don Jolley, currently on leave, requested hiring two career firefighters earlier this year because daytime responses in recent years are low among those who are paid-on-call.
We’re told it’s because some of them work out of town.
But the fire department’s response times are excellent, as assistant fire chief Mike Larsson reiterated during his presentation at the meeting.
And the department averages 14.7 firefighters for structure fires, again an excellent standard.
The city department is further aided by a great water supply and pump capacity, and location of the current fire hall, being so central, is key to response times.
Earlier this year, the city’s commercial rating for Public Fire Protection was upgraded, affording the opportunity to potentially reduce insurance costs for local businesses.
Yes, Pitt Meadows has grown over the years, and the fire hall is undersized and due to be replaced.
But call volumes have remained stagnant, while fire suppression techniques and requirements have improved, even if some materials burn faster than others.
Incident types – medical, those for motor vehicle incidents and fires – are also stable.
A report in 2016 by Dugal Smith found the fire department scored well on response time, training, apparatus and equipment, inspection programs, service costs per capita, and the reduction of critical incidents.
Smith, from Burnaby, attended the meeting Monday and said that the current Pitt Meadows fire department model is the envy of many municipalities, some of which are reconsidering what services they provide.
He cautioned the city to not move too fast or too far.
We advise considering what the city is giving up in moving this way – more than 75 years of history and tradition, the pride of giving back to and taking care of the community, because it’s the right thing to do.
And they do it well.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News