Ten more fire-medics are needed to cope with soaring call volumes and lengthening response times.
Since 2009, Emergency Services calls have jumped 28 per cent to just over 11,000. Fire calls alone have increased 31 per cent to just under 1,700.
Emergency co-response (requiring both ambulance and fire) rose a staggering 152 per cent to 3,817 calls from 1,457.
That surge in workload has left some stations understaffed at times and caused service levels to drop. The city target is for Emergency Services to respond within four minutes of travel time 90 per cent of the time.
In 2009, the department hit that target 88 per cent of the time, but only 81 per cent of the time in 2014.
From 2009 to 2014, the city’s population increased 9.6 per cent to 98,585.
Elaine Vincent, the city’s director of development services, said adding the fire-medics is needed to meet the city’s contractual obligations with Alberta Health Services but also to meet provincial response requirements under the province’s high-intensity residential fire legislation that requires a truck on scene within 10 minutes 90 per cent of the time.
“Currently right now we are at risk of not meeting some of those (standards) with some of our fire halls that are not staffed at the same level as others,” said Vincent following a budget presentation to city council on Wednesday.
Adding the fire-medics will cost the city about $887,000 this year, including $70,000 in one-time costs.
Another $200,000 has been requested to update the Emergency Services Master Plan.
Mayor Tara Veer questioned whether the addition of fire-medics should await the results of the master plan review.
Vincent said that regardless of the plan’s outcome, the additional help is needed to meet standards.
City manager Craig Curtis said senior staff also considered the same question, and after detailed review, he is “thoroughly satisfied” the additional fire-medics are warranted.