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Penticton Fire Department undergoes review

The Penticton Fire Department will undergo a core review in 2012, but city officials maintain it’s not with a mind to reduce the firefighting budget.

During budget deliberations Tuesday, the city’s capital plan was presented and included fire services items like protective clothing, helmet headlamps and self-contained breathing apparatus needed every year.

But a $60,000 request to conduct a core review, Chief Wayne Williams said, has been a long time in coming.

“We are really looking forward to getting this done,” he said. “Most fire departments in the province that operate like we do, as a composite fire department, have master plans in place. It talks about how they respond to things, what they respond to, what else they should respond to, what shouldn’t they respond to. They look at response times, fire hall location.

“They come in and tell you how you’re doing and provide recommendations on how you can improve your service.”

While Williams has wanted to conduct a review of fire operations for several years, it was always listed as a medium priority in comparison to other department requests.

“So many changes have happened to us over the last year and a half, that this is a good time to take a good look at the fire department and see how we’re doing,” he said, noting that changes like losing a deputy chief and the local dispatcher service in addition to reorganizing systems operations have made the department think twice about where to go next. “We want to find out how we can continue to provide the services we are, and try to get in place where we can go in five to 10 years.”

City manager Annette Antoniak said that “it was never the intent” of the review to reduce the fire department budget or staff levels.

“The intent is collectively as a team to find out … are we on the right track? Are we delivering the appropriate service? Do we have the right levels to deliver that service? Could there perhaps be a different way of doing it that we haven’t considered?” she said, acknowledging the core review label can be loaded given what’s transpired at the city. “Whenever you mention core review, there’s this sense that all that means is layoffs. I can well understand why they think that. Now that we’re two years in, I would suggest the team here has grown stronger as a result of the work that needed to be done. … Because of that we’re so cohesive and working as a team, that I could only hope, by doing this with the fire department, we could further gel.”

A representative of IAFF Local 1399 could not be reached for comment because he is on holidays, but Williams said the union has been calling for a review as well.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I know the union’s really looking forward to it. They’ve been wanting something as well, so we have their support,” he said, adding they want to ensure department leaders, firefighters, union representatives, auxiliary firefighters and city staff are all involved in drafting a long-term plan.

“It’s the kind of thing most departments have done already and they look at it every few years,” he said, “and that’s when they realize they’re on track, or see that there’s been more development, so let’s move some of these things up.”

Williams said some initial meetings must be held to draft a framework of what they’re seeking before an RFP can be issued.

 

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