Firefighting

Halifax to hire 32 career firefighters

After months of debate, regional council approves fire station staffing

A controversial debate about updates to the municipality’s fire fighting service came to an end today.

Halifax regional council approved a motion 15-1 to staff each station in the municipality with crews of at least two career firefighters 24 hours a day.

A total of 32 firefighters will be hired, council decided. Fire chief Doug Trussler originally proposed hiring 52 firefighters. He recommended that each aerial be staffed with four career firefighters, but council settled for an established safety standard of two.

Based on what council approved today, Trussler said the department will request an additional $200,000 in the 2016-17 budget. It will take a total of two years to integrate the new firefighting staff — 20 will be hired this year and 12 next year.

Trussler says the vote, although not the outcome he had hoped for, was an improvement on existing staffing.

Jim Gates, president of the Halifax Professional Fire Fighters Association, said he is “a little disappointed” with council “falling short” on the staffing of aerial trucks.

“People have to remember those particular units, working with just two firefighters on them, they’re not going to be able to function at things like car fires, or if they respond to things like a structure fire,” said Gates, whose union represents firefighters. “They’re always going to have to respond now in tandem with another unit.”

Matt Whitman, councillor for Hammonds Plains–St. Margarets, said he was pleased with council’s decision and anticipates no tax increase from the decision.