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

Just Posted

Sidney could take additional action around speculation tax

Council to consider steps later this fall after staff review of provincial statistics

Victoria People’s Party candidate says campaign signs stolen around city

PPC candidate Alyson Culbert says she finds theft ‘disturbing’

VIDEO: Greater Victoria, here’s the news you missed this weekend

Andrew Berry trial nears end, Victoria joins tree-planting pledge and more

Three second-half goals lead Cavalry over Victoria’s Pacific FC

Cavalry FC downed Pacific FC 4-1 on Sunday in Canadian Premiere League action

Island music trivia tournament a hit on World Alzheimer’s Day

More than $13,000 raised by people naming that tune

PHOTOS: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island

Rescue staff determined the plastic band cut the protected animal’s neck approximately two inches

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Most Read