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Red Deer fire engine short-staffed for five hours on Sunday

‘We have been running short staffed for years now,’ says union president
A Red Deer fire engine was running short-staffed for a handful of hours on Sunday. (Advocate file photo)

The local firefighters’ union is expressing concern after a Red Deer station was short-staffed for a handful of hours on Sunday.

Red Deer Emergency Services typically has four people working on an engine, but there were only three working on a Station 2 firetruck from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The truck was still run as support company, explained RDES chief Ken McMullen.

“It still gets dispatched to the same calls. It can go to motor-vehicle collisions, it can go to a house fire,” McMullen said.

“The only thing we do not allow it to do with three people versus four people, is an interior attack on a house fire. We would be requiring apparatus from other stations to arrive before we went inside to do an interior attack.”

The Red Deer Fire Fighter’s Association IAFF Local 1190 said it does not support “running apparatus with minimal staffing levels,” adding this is a safety concern for the public and firefighters.

”It’s becoming a more common occurrence. When the station running below minimum safe staffing such as (Sunday), the results are the same,” said IAFF Local 1190 in a tweet.

McMullen said these types of decisions aren’t made lightly or without the assurance RDES is maintaining a high level of protection within the city.

Stephen Belich, president of Local 1190, said in a statement to The Advocate RDES has been “running short-staffed” for years.

“What we really need to do is solve the long-term staffing crisis by coming up with a long-term plan to ensure that we can recruit and retain staff so that we can continue to deliver high-level service that Red Deer deserves,” said Belich.

Red Deer firefighters are “always getting the job done with the minimum staffing resources. Unfortunately what we are now seeing is the result of running at bare minimum staffing levels for the size of our community.”

McMullen said there are a number of firefighters who are off as a result of short-term injury and long-term injury. Additionally, there are more individuals taking vacation right now who weren’t taking time off during COVID-19, he added.

“The amount of staff that are off now is higher than we’ve had off in previous years. As a result of that we have less people available to cover shifts when somebody is away,” said McMullen.

McMullen said RDES continues to work with the association to advocate for additional staffing.

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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