Innisfail firefighters get pay cut

Volunteer firefighters in Innisfail will be paid less for most calls as part of a funding overhaul.

Innisfail’s volunteer firefighters will get paid less for most calls as part of a budget overhaul.

As volunteers, firefighters are not paid a salary but get an honorarium for responding to calls.

The honorarium rate will remain unchanged but council has changed its remuneration policy to more closely reflect hours worked. Previously, firefighters were being paid for at least three hours automatically, regardless of the length of the call, which average 24 to 56 minutes in town.

Compensation changes are expected to bring firefighter pay more in line with other Central Alberta volunteer forces.

Town chief administrative officer Helen Dietz said the department has consistently gone over budget — almost $56,000 in 2014 and about $32,000 this year.

“The request for the 2017 budget came in with an additional $50,000 request.”

That prompted a review of the fire department and its $515,0000 budget by the town. Three-quarters of the budget goes towards the honoraria paid to firefighters, training and the full-time manager of fire and protective services.

“It was determined that we pay significantly higher in our honorariums and that we were going to cut back in that area as far as our budget.”

Other municipalities pay significantly less than Innisfail, she said. Innisfail has the highest and lowest hourly rates at $33.05 and $15.25 to compared to Red Deer County’s $22.50 and $10.

The town is paying about $6,075 per firefighter annually compared with $2,530 in Red Deer County.

The town is also covering 66 per cent of the fire department’s budget even though only 42 per cent of calls are in-town. The department also responds to highway collisions and is part of a regional response in Red Deer County.

The overall budget will remain unchanged, but the cost overruns will be eliminated. Money saved will be funnelled back into equipment purchases and other initiatives such as fire inspections and community involvement.

To cut down on the number of false alarm calls a public education program will be launched to encourage people to manage their alarms systems better.

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