Langley Township will try to hire 40 new firefighters over the next four years, council has decided.
Councillor Tim Baillie, a retired firefighters himself, put forward the motion at the first Township council meeting since the new mayor and councillors were sworn in earlier this month.
“I don’t think, I know that this fire department is grossly understaffed,” Baillie said.
With the Township’s rapid growth, there’s a need for a significant number of new firefighters, he said.
Baillie also said the current system, which mixes full-time firefighters at some halls with paid on-call firefighters at others, isn’t providing fast enough response times.
“Paid on-call firefighting is a methodology of the past,” Baillie said. On-call members can’t simply stop what they are doing and rush to a nearby firehall like they could half a century ago, he said.
He said time is key when responding to a fire, or to a medical call. Medical calls make up more than 50 per cent of calls in the Township, and Baillie said responses are averaging 13 to 15 minutes in some cases, which he said was “inexcusable.”
He brought up the scenario of a firefighter doing CPR on a child or other victim in a medical call, and then losing that patient.
“You have in your mind, what if I was 30 seconds earlier?” Baillie said. “What if I was a lousy 15 seconds earlier?”
Mayor Eric Woodward said boosting the fire service’s numbers was something they campaigned on. He also mentioned the possible construction of two more firehalls, although that was not covered by Baillie’s motion on Monday.
Baillie said the council will have to look at both building new halls and repositioning existing ones to ensure firefighters have adequate equipment and space.
The motion was approved unanimously. Councillor Kim Richter was absent.
Langley Township firefighters have repeatedly called for more staffing over the year leading up to the election, saying that they needed more members to fully crew their fire trucks and respond when arriving on the scene of an incident. Too many times halls were left with fewer than four firefighters per truck, which is considered the minimum number to safely begin handling a fire on arrival.
More funding for firefighters was included in the 2022 Township budget.
The firefighter motion was one of a number of major initiatives that Woodward and the Contract with Langley councillors launched at their very first meeting since their swearing in.
Contract with Langley ran on a detailed platform, and they appear to be wasting no time in putting as much of their platform as possible into motion.
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