Sound the alarm: Closing stations does not make for efficency.
At the December Executive standing committee of regional council a report was presented by Doug Trussler, Chief of Halifax Fire and Emergency services. The staff report is proposing the closure of 3 urban fire halls, 4 rural and the relocation of 2 urban fire halls in the Sackville/Bedford area.
We on some fronts appear to be entering a period of history in our city where the bureaucracy is content to let basic infrastructural needs be diminished whereas they and council allows some extras to happen. Every city needs sufficient levels of fire, police, refuse collection, sidewalks, transit, roads etc. I find it alarming of the trend I see of city departments that from a citizen’s perspective are not working together.
Closing fire halls in neighbourhoods that are growing seems counter intuitive to nuances of the regional plan. Further, people must be safe. Fire fighters provide services other than saving our buildings they often act as first responders. Additionally, for much of our history fire halls have served as social outlets and supports for the surrounding neighbourhoods that they are present in. The bigger question, that I feel we need to ask ourselves and our elected officials is who is guiding this proverbial ship that is our city. While, we have much to celebrate in Halifax and be thankful for there too is much that we can improve on. No, our city is not broken, but there are many roads that must be smoothed. I feel it is time that we ask who councillors are advocating for. At this tenure, I thankful to live in Halifax and thankful that at least Dartmouth Centre Councillor McCluskey is not afraid to question staff and take thoughtful stances that lately many I have been in agreement with.
Below is the letter I sent to the members of the Executive Standing Committee:
“I have reviewed the staff report regarding reorganization of HRFE resources.
In reading the report, I feel there are some positives:
- The proposed 5 year investment plan for tech upgrades.
-The reposition of Station 8 and 9 seems to make sense and will help to address coverage shortfalls.
However , with the proposed closures I have some concerns.
Station 4 ( Lady Hammond Rd)
This station from listed stock is one of two in North End Halifax. There are significant examples of older housing stock in this neighborhood. Whether single dwelling or multi-unit with older housing stock it gives potential to materials or building attachments that may increase fire risk or burning ability.
Additionally, with the closure of Station 4 it would reduce support to EMS services as it is my understanding many fire fighters are trained as first responders and the closure may impact the accessing of emergency services.
Lastly , that Station 5 (bayers rd) could replace the coverage Station 4 provides. While it may meet 2006 response times as prescribed by council on paper. I question the efficacy of coverage it may provide. I question this because of traffic congestion often experience in that area of the city that, in my opinion has strong potential to impact even emergency vehicles.
My concerns regarding the closure of Station 13 are similar as above. In addition, I'm disappointed that Stations would be reduced in the Dartmouth core. Downtown Dartmouth is destined for growth and to increase urban density. I see no proactive plans in the staff report to either:
A ) Communicate long term plans for staff or station expansion for Dartmouth proper.
B) Modernize Station 13 for future anticipated growth in the downtown core.
If Station 13 is closed, with the fire boat being moved to Station 15 (pleasant st)..How will this impact staffing levels at that station? Do they have a surplus of staff presently? Lastly, I do not accept that Station 3(West St) could safely be considered to provide coverage to Downtown Dartmouth due to the need to cross the bridge. In my opinion the bridge is not always a reliable means of crossing in terms of effectively, timely crossing. Coupled with impending bridge re-decking starting next year, this seems quite problematic.
While I'm not very familiar with the location of Station 11 (Paton rd), I would estimate similar concerns of removing the other two urban stations
Lastly , there appears to be no plan indicated in detail how volunteer recruitment will be continued and enhanced. Could some of the reallocation of urban core volunteers not be reassigned to rural stations where workforce levels are more of an issue.”
Closing fire halls does not make sense. I urge everyone to email your councillor and challenge this staff report.