A Red Deer fire station was narrowly able to avoid being short-staffed on the weekend, and Red Deer fire chief says staff shortages are happening more often.
Station 2 on 67th Street was almost short one fire medic for the four-person crew.
“Somebody did come in for that shift but that does not negate the fact that we are asking for additional staff,” said fire chief Ken McMullen about a budget request going forward to the city for 2023.
On Saturday night, Local 1190 of the International Association of Firefighters tweeted the station was below minimum safe staffing levels, and tweeted again on Sunday.
City of #reddeer 911 for the second straight night is below safe staffing levels while serving 72 fire departments across #alberta This raises the concern that citizens may experience 911 call taking delays as well as potential fire dept communication breakdowns #secondscount— Red Deer IAFF L1190 (@RedDeerFire) September 19, 2022
McMullen said an engine with only three fire medics would still be able to attend all types of calls, but staffing would not be ideal. They could respond to medical or vehicle collision calls as usual, but they would be hampered at fire calls.
“Where the challenge is, is not allowing us to do any interior attacks. They would have to wait for the other apparatus to arrive.”
#RedDeer fire station #2 on 67 st is yet again below minimum safe staffing levels tonight. We always strive to achieve the industry standard of 4 personnel per engine but due to continued staffing issues we will be a member short until 0100hrs @IAFFCanada— Red Deer IAFF L1190 (@RedDeerFire) September 18, 2022
In June one of Red Deer’s five fire trucks could not respond to emergencies Saturday and Sunday evening one weekend when a truck didn’t have any fire medics.
McMullen said staffing has gotten tighter for a variety of reasons and it’s more challenging to get staff to work extra shifts because they are reaching their limits.
“Staff are certainly tired and burned out. Staff have been working around the clock. It’s been a challenging time through COVID.
“It’s not lost on me as the chief that we have to do something to address that need.”
He said unlike other types of workplaces, fire department staff worked steady through the pandemic. That’s why the department is taking a proactive approach and seeking additional staff.
“We just don’t have the bench strength to accommodate all the needs of our staff right now.”