Kelowna’s fire chief has addressed claims of unsafe staffing levels within the city’s fire department.
In a letter released last week, Kelowna Professional Firefighters Association (KPFA) President Jason Picklyk stated the city requires another two staffed engine companies in order to meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
The letter came after an apartment fire in Quail Ridge on Jul. 23, in which Picklyk said crews arrived with a below-standard number of members. Two other calls came in around the same time requiring some personnel to leave and respond.
Fire Chief Travis Whiting, in his own letter this week, noted the city has received questions about staffing levels and standards.
“These are valid questions and show the value placed by our residents on our first responders and the work they do every day to keep us safe,” he said.
Whiting added as the city grows, infrastructure needs to keep pace, including public safety and fire department.
“The department responds to multiple call types, and the role of our front-line responders is busier and more complex than ever before.”
Whiting added challenges of growth and the need to ensure public and firefighter safety is also recognized by the city. He said over the past four years the department’s suppression branch was increased from 96 personnel to 120, which allowed a new full-time, four-person engine crew in Glenmore.
Whiting also noted challenges arise when a community grows at the pace Kelowna is experiencing.
“We will continue to work on resourcing, training, and equipping our front-line responders consistent with that growth.”