Fire Chief Bill Balfour outlined the rationale for a requesting more support for the Cavan Monaghan Fire Department at the December 18th Council Meeting. The primary motivator is an ongoing increase in service call volume received by the department.
Requests for service have risen by 44% over the ten year period ending 2016 with no change in its complement of volunteer firefighting staff over this time. Call volumes continued to increase in 2017 and new residential developments are expected to further increase the demand for service from this department. Contacts with neighbouring fire departments confirmed that the Cavan Monaghan Fire Department has the smallest pool of volunteer firefighters with only 45 members, while Douro-Dummer has a pool of 60 members; Selwyn and Otonabee- South Monaghan each have 90 members.
While responding to calls for service is the most obvious responsibility of department members, their goals include providing a range of programs to protect the lives and property of residents in the event of fire, medical emergency and exposure to dangerous situations. Chief Balfour outlined other duties performed by volunteer staff in support of the Fire Department, such as participating at public education events, preparing reports, and testing and repairing equipment. Staff also responds to calls for help from neighbouring municipalities when they require assistance.
Four options to ensure Cavan Monaghan Fire Department is equipped to maintain the current level of service it provides and address the rising number of service calls were outlined at the meeting. One of the options involved hiring six full time staff for fire suppression activities to provide 24/7 coverage which would cost in the neighbourhood of $408,000.00 per year based on local pay grids not including the cost of benefits. The option preferred by Chief Balfour as well as Council involved hiring fifteen additional volunteer firefighters bringing that pool to 60, as well as the creation of an Auxiliary Division within the department. The Auxiliary positions will be staffed by experienced staff who are no longer able to perform the active suppression duties, and will provide training and support for the Fire Department. These volunteers will have the potential for financial consideration in the form of an honorarium or a training/activity allowance.
Volunteer recruitment for these positions begins immediately, however recruits would not be able to attend the training center in Norwood until 2019 because the 2018 intake begins this month. This spreads the training costs for the recruits over a two year period. This additional expense, together with a requested communication enhancement for real-time monitoring of individuals responding to calls, brings the draft 2018 Fire Department Budget request to $658,311.00, which is 1.2% lower than 2017 but up slightly from the 4.4% department budget cut in the original 2018 budget draft. KG