Thursday, April 27, 2023

City Council hears feedback on Fire Service status as part of Budget's online focus

The status of the current make up of the City of Prince Rupert Fire Service made somewhat of a surprise topic as part of the final Budget considerations by City Council. 

The topic one that had not been mentioned in the four week engagement process period previous,  but one which gained some time of note in the final portion of the Budget overview prior to the adoption of the Financial plan and 12.5% tax rate increase.

The Conversation from Council provided a bit of insight from the members of the public who made use of the City's online Budget simulator. With their contribution towards the theme of Public Safety making for the focus of the council members narratives on the night.

The data that the Councillors used came out a Report from CFO Corrine Bomben and part of the Agenda for her presentation on Monday. 

(See bottom portion of her report available here)

With 41 per cent of the respondents who participated in the Budget simulation indicating that they would decrease the Fire Service budget. Other data indicated savings should be sought from the Police Service. and Victim Service categories.  

The Council members noted that the Police Budget is for the most part out of their control owing to the nature of the contract policing agreement they have with the Province.

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The data review that sparked the Council discussion is focused on the online Simulation, as well, Ms. Bomben's report features some of the commentary towards Budget themes, with public safety among the areas of note.

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While they made note of the public input on Public Safety, the councillors who spoke to the topic of the Fire Department clearly had no appetite towards any suggestion of changing things from a professional service to one of a hybrid, or volunteer based operation.

Among those speaking to the Fire Department elements included: 

Councillor Wade Niesh

"There was a couple of comments about Fire Department. You know we are a compact community with houses that are very close together, businesses downtown that are very close together you now most touching. 

So a Paid Fire Hall is something that I do believe in, because I feel that a quick response is something that will hopefully save some buildings, some maybe not"

Councillor Cunningham 

"Well you know, A lot of the comments are ... Cut the Fire Department from a Full time to a volunteer. 

Well you know, other towns of our size that did have volunteers are now going to complement of full time and volunteers and they're struggling to get volunteers.  And this town here struggles to get volunteers right now. 

Even if we did, it's not going to impact the budget this year or next year because Volunteer Fire Departments need to train up their volunteers.

Getting volunteers in this town that are available 24/7 is just about impossible because so many people work, as Councillor Niesh said earlier, they work shift work, so they can't be available 24/7 

And also, you know maybe we can share the cost with industry. You know, that's something that's gotta be looked at, but you know that was another suggestion made.

I think you know people look at the Fire Department as a big cash cow,  it isn't. 

It's a very essential service especially if you want to attract industry.  Industry is not going to come to a town where if they build something and something happens it's just going to disappear  

And so I think we definitely have an advantage having a full time fire department, especially with the size of the port we've got and things like that.

You know are they sharing the cost, hopefully one day they will,  but in the meantime we have to do it alone"
Teri Forster 

"One thing about the Fire Department that I haven't heard mentioned. If we were to move to a Volunteer one that would impact our personal property insurance ... So I'm not at all in favour of that because the money will cost us more elsewhere it's not just, that's a solution, there are implications"

Mayor Herb Pond followed up on that element of the discussion with a few additional observations.

"Just to be clear it can, the underwriters won't give you that clear a direction, at least the last time around that I played this game. 

They won't be that clear, that you cut your fire department to volunteer, we're down whatever.  But they have their checklist of things they look at and it would be a risk for sure. I think that's fair"

Mr. Pond added a few more thoughts to the topic in his closing comments.

"As you all know, I last sat in this chair in a time when we were cutting millions out of the budget  where we actually did reduce the Fire Department.  And we made really tough cuts that cost me friendships quite frankly. 

And If I thought that was the era we were in  and I thought that's what we needed I would recommend it again"

The mayor further noting that he doesn't believe that is a situation facing the current council.

The topic of a change towards Fire Protection did not make for any of the public commentary at the two City Council engagement opportunities offered up as part of the Budget Process for 2023. 

The Fire Service is one of the higher budget requirements, that mainly through the salary level of the members of the department. 

While the themes covered by the Councillors shared a determination to hold to the current model, since the topic was of some note for the online participants, Council may want to have a more comprehensive study taken on to explore the benefits that they noted towards the professional service that Prince Rupert uses. 

It would offer up an opportunity to compare the Prince Rupert model to those other communities of similar size and a number of those that are larger that currently use the hybrid version, or rely on a paid volunteer program.

A full review would provide residents with some factual and independent documentation towards the themes that were outlined, which could offer more back up to the Council members commentary and observations on the evening.

The ebb and flow of the Fire Department commentary can be found from the City's Video from Monday starting at the one hour thirty eight minute mark.

More notes from Monday's Council Session can be explored here.

Towards the work of the PRFD you can review some of their calls for service in the community from our  Archvie page


  1. For those calling to reduce RCMP and Fire services, please look at the following Prince Rupert specific data.

    Overdoses - 58% increase in the last four years
    First Responder call outs - 29% increase in the last four years
    Homelessness - 68% increase in the last four years
    Violent Crime Severity Index - 288.9 in 2020, the highest ever recorded

    Sources -,Prince%20Rupert%20homeless%20count%20finds%2066,in%20homelessness%20in%20three%20years.&text=The%20North%20Coast%20Transition%20Society's,experiencing%20homelessness%20in%20Prince%20Rupert.

  2. What would be nice to know is how the fire department has more than doubled in recent years yet population growth is stagnant.
    I thought we quit responding to ambulance calls!

  3. Does NCR know if the number of firefighters increased due to port-related industry or do those facilities have their own fire services?

    1. 2017 City Expenses - $30,483,378
      2021 City Expenses - $37,113,903

      Curb spending before cutting services.

    2. I don't know the answer to the port related fire fighting situation but I will make some enquiries ... check back next week to see if I find anything out! NCR

  4. At one time we had the pulp mill and saw mills. The loss of those should balance the port. Watson Island has nothing to do with port.