Mutual aid was called in for a fire in an apartment complex in Esquimalt in April. The Esquimalt Fire Department’s union president, Andrew Zado, says the purchase of a new rescue truck won’t be valuable to the community without more staffing – at least five supression firefighters per shift. (Black Press Media file photo)

Truck purchase prompts staffing plea from Esquimalt Firefighters Association

Union president says staffing should come before new equipment

The Esquimalt Firefighters Association says the planned purchase of a new heavy rescue truck will only add value to the department if more staff are brought onto the team.

The new truck is replacing the current rescue truck, which is too small to store all of the department’s equipment.

“Our little truck has outgrown itself … that’s why we’re replacing it,” said Fire Chief Chris Jancowski, adding that the “newer, more comprehensive apparatus” allows the department to do more, such as water or confined space rescues.

READ ALSO: VicPD, Esquimalt Fire Department team up to rescue ducklings

The union estimates the truck to cost at least $750,000 – money it says is wasted without proper staffing.

“Our greatest concern is, we’re currently not ensuring the ladder truck is available and a fifth firefighter is available to protect the community and our firefighters, yet they’re purchasing a new piece of equipment that, the way we see it, will be parking, waiting for someone to come and get it,” said Andrew Zado, president of the department union.

The union has been butting heads with management on staffing issues for a few years, with the association concerned about what it believes to be inconsistent staffing levels having an impact on community and firefighter safety.

READ ALSO: ‘We’re rolling the dice’: Esquimalt Firefighter union president questions staffing model

In order to use the aerial rescue ladder, five firefighters are needed, one to drive the aerial truck and four to take the fire engine.

But Zado said there is no back fill when a firefighter is sick or unable to work. The missing member is “replaced” by a chief or assistant chief, who would already be on shift.

To Zado, that puts the department down a vital team member.

“They just count the fire chief or the assistant fire chief as part of the crew strength, but realistically they are always available anyways, so really we are losing our capacity and firefighters on the ground,” Zado said. “And when seconds count, that doesn’t do anyone any good.”

And the threshold for wellness in a fire crew is higher than a typical worker, Zado noted. He said one team member has been off work since a deadly apartment fire on Craigflower Road in April. And in 2018, there were 100 days when a chief took the place of a missing firefighter.

But Jancowski says the staffing model is more than adequate, especially since the signing of mutual aid agreements that allow the department to call on other crews.

“On a community safety level we have always maintained that minimum (five responders) and most times we have more than that,” he said. “We’ll staff the truck as and when needed, as we’re doing currently with the current rescue truck. It’s that same purpose of cross staffing where we have a firefighter drive that vehicle to the scene.”

READ ALSO: Deck was ‘engulfed’ in flames, neighbour says of Esquimalt house fire

“All we’re doing is replacing a piece of equipment with something more suitable to our community’s needs,” Jancowski added. “The same staffing model has been maintained and we will continue to maintain that unless something changes in the future.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Meet Arthur Heart, Oak Bay Avenue’s resident stickman

Contest winner dubs stickman Art Heart

Sidney cadet takes home gold at South Island Zone biathlon

‘Rising star’ sets her sights on provincials

Victoria council keeps its catered lunches at more than $10,000 per year

Two councillors tried to eliminate the expense, with widespread rejection

High-rise hotel proposed for downtown Victoria location

A 15-storey hotel could be coming to the Fort and Blanshard streets area

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Prince Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Here is a list of some things you definitely should NOT do, according to the BBC

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Manitoba RCMP spent less than $800K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Island Bakery in Cobble Hill to close

Cobble Hill store in business since 1982

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

‘Naughty boy’: Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

The comedian has been suffering from a rare form of dementia

Successful end to search for kayakers along the Island river

Father and son located tired and cold, but otherwise OK

Most Read