Firefighters in the Friendly City are feeling a little hot after learning about another reduction in staffing.
Moose Jaw Firefighters’ Association President Gord Hewitt says the minimum number of firefighters on duty is being scaled back from 10 to nine.
“I can tell you that our firefighters are very frustrated. This has been a really tough time,” he indicated.
Having just one less body to go out during the initial stages of an emergency call might not seem like a drastic setback. Hewitt thinks otherwise.
“We believe that this change, when we’re initially responding to a house fire or if there’s somebody trapped or for interial structure firefighting, it just actually makes our job more dangerous and harder to do.”
The move follows another recent claw back of staff. This summer, it was announced the emergency call dispatch centre would be closing in Moose Jaw and instead handled out of Prince Albert at the provincial call centre. Four full-time positions and one part-time job were cut as a result.
At the same time, he said more administration staff have been added.
Hewitt stated that the National Fire Protection Association has standards set out for safe staffing levels for firefighting, and the city has never been at the recommended numbers. He said not recognizing well-established public safety standards is a another step back.
Fire Chief Rod Montgomery disagrees with Hewitt and believes the resources currently in place are adequate for battling blazes in the initial stages of a call.
“It doesn’t put us in any type of position that we can’t meet those needs,” said Montgomery. “I certainly believe we can cover all those tasks off, even with nine.”
He justified the additional office jobs by explaining how they’ll be used to enhance public safety. When it comes to recommended safety standards, he said that’s based on opinion. If you compare the number of Moose Jaw’s initial responders to other cities of comparable size, Montgomery said their city has the highest numbers.
“The City of Moose Jaw takes safety in the highest regard and we certainly wouldn’t put anybody in a position where I feel they’re compromised,” he added.
And while Hewitt believes the recent cuts are permanent, the fire chief was quick to discount that.
“This isn’t to say we can’t expand or contract as need be. If the situation changes in the city certainly we can look at making those enhancements,” said Montgomery.