Saanich fire Chief Mike Burgess

Saanich fire Chief Mike Burgess

Fire chiefs pitch Saanich for regional dispatch

Fire chiefs from View Royal and Colwood are urging other municipalities to follow their lead to switch to Saanich fire dispatch.

Fire chiefs from View Royal and Colwood are so impressed by the quality of service they’re receiving from the Saanich Fire dispatch centre, they’re urging other municipalities to follow their lead.

On Tuesday, View Royal fire Chief Paul Hurst and Colwood fire Chief Russ Cameron called for Saanich to be at the centre of an amalgamated dispatch centre, following the first week of a five-year contract that sees both West Shore municipalities serviced by Saanich dispatchers.

“I’m a full supporter of one regional fire dispatch for this region,” Cameron said at a press conference Tuesday alongside Hurst and Saanich fire Chief Mike Burgess.

The Colwood chief urged other municipalities to seriously look at acquiring the services of Saanich’s dispatch centre.

Saanich already answers fire calls from residents in Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, North Saanich, Central Saanich and Sidney, and on May 23 began serving View Royal and Colwood.

Colwood and View Royal issued requests for proposals last fall to explore breaking off from the Langford dispatch centre. Langford dispatches for a number of small communities in the south Island while Victoria and CFB Esquimalt have their own fire dispatch.

“So far things have gone very well,” Hurst said of the recent switch. “We’re receiving a top-tier service from Saanich.”

The pair said Saanich’s state-of-the-art dispatch centre, built in 2008, ensures their needs are met, including a standardized method of collecting data and statistics, and safety redundancies, in the event of data or connectivity loss.

“We’re able to track, with fires, were there smoke alarms in the building or not? Where they able to escape? Why not? … Is there a hole somewhere in the service?” Hurst said, referring to the Saanich dispatch centre’s data collection abilities.

“We can look at the statistics and focus our efforts on the initiatives that need focus. Councils can make educated decisions in investing money in the budget (to particular initiatives).”

Burgess credits Saanich politicians and taxpayers for giving the green light for the 2008 dispatch improvement project.

“The mayor and council here put public safety as a very high priority. We have to look after the citizens and taxpayers in Saanich,” Burgess said. “They allowed us to invest considerably – so much so we can offer our services to our partners in the region.”

“Somebody in the region sometimes has to be a leader. In this case, Saanich taxpayers stepped up to the plate,” added Hurst.

Saanich’s dispatch service will cost Colwood $76,332 this year, and will rise roughly $3,000 per year until 2017. View Royal will pay $54,584 this year, and the cost will jump roughly $2,000 a year until 2017.

Both West Shore chiefs say they are paying more for Saanich than Langford dispatch, but the roughly 3.5-per-cent cost increase is worth every penny.

“For what I’m getting for the price I’m paying, the costs are minimal but the improvements are tenfold,” Hurst said.

– with files from Natalie North

kslavin@saanichnews.com