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Penticton Fire Department escapes cuts
Members of Penticton’s Fire Department are resting easier after the results of a six-month review of the department’s services were released this week.
“They were a little nervous, they didn’t know what was going on,” said Fire Chief Wayne Williams. “They didn’t know what to expect out of the review and after what had happened out of the core services review to the city.”
City manager Annette Antoniuk said none of the 24 recommendations outlined in the report are expected to result is staff cuts. Unlike the core review conducted by the city in 2010, which did result in layoffs, this review was to look at whether the department was operating efficiently and areas where efficiency could be improved.
“It wasn’t about putting cuts in, it was about providing better service to the people of the community and the delivery,” said Mayor Dan Ashton. “It’s not that there isn’t good service, it’s the delivery of that service and whether there are improvements that can be made.”
Recommendations range from revamping the city’s false alarm bylaw and controlled substance property bylaw to better put the cost of fire department responses on to property owners to modernizing operations at the fire department.
“We have the ability in our bylaw to charge $450 an hour for a false alarm. That’s not something we’ve been doing,” said Williams.
The review also supported the fire department’s role as first medical responders, but suggested that the department provide the city with a more detailed breakdown of the costs associated with the program. Williams said that they budget $10,000 annually for first responders, which account for about two-thirds of the annual call volume.
“That’s what they want us to look at, what is the cost of doing a first responder call. Yes, the crew is on shift, but there is cost for the vehicle. There is a cost for any supplies they use,” said Williams.
Another recommendation focuses on upgrading the department's training facility and programs.
“What we’ve had in the plans for a while is trying to get a training facility that other departments could come to and train,” said Williams, who added that the departments current training ground needs to be certified.
After the disastrous fire that saw a home destroyed on Spiller Road last year, some residents have been raising concerns about the lack of hydrants in the fringe areas of the city. The review doesn’t recommend expanding the city’s hydrant system, though it does suggest changes should be made to the resource allocation plan to ensure that the water tender truck — purchased in 2010 — be automatically dispatched to fire calls in the outlying areas.
The recommendations focus on helping the department create a strategic plan, which will be the work of a new city committee. Williams expects to start meetings in the near future with the group, which he will lead, with members representing both the fire department and the city.
“We would like to get started in the next couple of weeks,” said Williams adding that using the same pattern as that of the core review committee, they expect to develop their strategy in the next few months.
“We’re going to get at it right away. We did the same with the core review for the city,” said Antoniak.