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Volunteer firefighters relieved of life-threatening calls

Lacombe’s volunteer firefighters will no longer be required to attend life-threatening medical calls normally handled by ambulance crews.

City council heard on Monday night that firefighters are increasingly being dispatched to emergency medical calls, such as patients suffering strokes or heart attacks, when ambulances can’t get their soon enough.

“Unfortunately, the Lacombe Fire Department is not able to provide the level of service that these calls require due to staffing, training, equipment and legal limitations,” says a report to council from Fire Chief Ed van Delden and the city’s corporate services director Michael Minchin.

“These types of calls require paramedics not firefighters.”

Minchin told council that there are concerns that requiring volunteers, who may not have the necessary medical training, to attend those kinds of calls while waiting for paramedics to arrive exposes them to more stress but also additional liability.

It also increases the numbers of calls volunteers must respond to.

Coun. Outi Kite was concerned how the situation would impact the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.

“My fear if the trend continues is we’re going to lose the volunteer fire department,” said Kite, adding the city can’t afford a full-time paid department.

Coun. Peter Bouwsema saw the increasing use of volunteer firefighters for medical emergencies as a “slippery slope” that could lead to heavier demands in the future.

Mayor Steve Christie, a volunteer firefighter for 12 years, also expressed is concern for what is happening.

“It is tough and strenuous on our volunteers and putting them in an unfair position,” said Christie.

Alberta Health Services should be made aware of the problems that are emerging, said Coun. Ian Foster.

“Alberta Health Services has to come up the plate. But I’m not sure they’re hearing that message from across the province.”

Council voted unanimously to inform Alberta Health Services that the fire department’s emergency medical response would be limited to patient lift assists from buildings or confined areas. Volunteers would continue to provide initial first aid at motor vehicle collisions, fire and rescue calls.

In other council news:

•Council voted to delay a storefront enhancement program that would provide up to $10,000 in grants and loans to businesses in the Old Town Main Street District that wanted to spruce up their facades.

It was decided to wait until downtown architectural guidelines are in place and an upcoming heritage resources management plan is completed to ensure storefront improvements match the city’s vision.

•The city has also boosted fines in its nuisance bylaw to keep it in line with other municipalities and to create more of a deterrent. Council heard the most common complaints involve roaming cats and noise. Fines for permitting a nuisance will double to $100 for a first offence, and to $200 on second offence. Third or more offences will lead to a $500 fine, up from $200.

Fines for allowing cats to run at large or to damage property will go to $75 on a first offence, up from $50. Second and third offences go up to $100 and $200 from $75 and $100.



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