Prince Rupert City Council members received a report from Fire Chief Jeff Beckwith on Monday evening that detailed a growing area of concern for the Fire Service, which more and more is backfilling for missing ambulance personnel in response to calls.
The topic from the Council session made for a public notice for the community, the details of which we relayed Tuesday morning, a declaration that notes that as of now, the city's Fire Department responders will only be attending the calls deemed as critical care, or purple on the call management protocol.
What led to that declaration was explored the Monday session, as the City's Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller outlined the full range of concerns from the Fire Chief.
Among some of the key observations from Ms. Miller's overview:
How the City is now finding additional expenses to provide for a provincially funded system and creating a situation which could have an impact on the Fire Departments ability to respond to fire situations in the community.
The Discussion coming from the Report provided for much concern towards the current situation from the City's Council members who spoke to the topic.
Councillor Reid Skelton-Morven, paraphrased much of Ms. Miller's presentation, calling attention to the safety issues that the situation presents.
"The main focus, I know there was some dollar figures that were mentioned as well, a lot of this is really due to safety in the community. Because when we take a fire fighter off duty we now have a limited, a huge barrier to entry actually enter buildings. because they need an appropriate number of firefighters on shift and available on watch to effectively respond"
Councillor Wade Niesh expressed his concern at the situation as it has evolved.
"I've often felt that, you know, it's been a burden on our taxpayers when we're watching our firefighters who are paid for by local taxpayers, responding to minor calls that really in my eyes should be covered from the Ambulance Service ... Obviously our fire fighters will still respond to the purple calls being the most important calls, the ones where people's lives are at stake.
But I do feel that the Ambulance Service needs to step up and they need to hire more people to take care of the job that they are supposed to take care of; I don't want to see our Firefighters burn out from doing someone else's job.
I think that they should be tasked first with doing their own job and being there as a back up to help. But many times when I've seen situations around town and I see fire fighters are the first one there and they're the ones doing the majority of the work and now their driving the ambulance for them ... this really bothers me. I feel that this is a good step to maybe bring that to a stop and hopefully they can step up and provide the service that they are supposed to provide"
Councillor Adey noted that the city's actions should not be viewed as a criticism of the work of the ambulance members in the community.
"I support the motion first of all and I encourage any efforts made to remedy the shortages at the institutional level with the BCAS as well. I do want to just make a point that in criticizing the BCAS Service levels we shouldn't necessarily allow that to be interpreted as criticizing the paramedics on the ground who are also overburdened with the work that they do as well, so I do want to recognize that as well"
Councillor Cunningham concurred with Mr. Adey's comments, adding his own observations on the city's requirements for fire fighter response in the community.
"Our firefighters are trained up and entry level requires x number, I think tis four firefighters to be on the scene, if they don't have four, you know they're not going to stand outside and hear somebody screaming inside a house. They're going to take a chance and go in there without the right personal there and that's our firefighters to a T.
They're not going to stand by and their just putting themselves at harm by doing someone else's job and EMS has to step up to the plate"
Councillor Skelton-Morven also relayed some concerns he has heard from members of the paramedic service in recent times.
The full discussion can be viewed through the City's Video archive starting at the one hour forty four minute mark.
The City's declaration from Monday night can be reviewed here.
More notes on Monday's Council session are available from our Council Timeline feature.
A look at the work of all Emergency Responders in the northwest is available here.