Nanaimo City Council gives preliminary approval for 40 new firefighters

Nanaimo City Council gives preliminary approval for 40 new firefighters
Nanaimo Fire Rescue Chief Tim Doyle speaking to the Nanaimo Finance and Audit Committee Thursday.

Nanaimo’s Finance and Audit Committee has approved the addition of 40 new firefighters and two new trucks in a multi-million dollar decision that will have tax implications for property owners.

The first 20 firefighters would be hired for August of 2023 to staff a Rescue Pumper truck at Station #1 which is the downtown Firehall.

The cost implication is $1.3 million in 2023 and growing to $3.6 million in 2027. The truck’s cost of $442,500 would be covered by a reserve fund. The decision represents a 1.04 per cent tax increase in 2023.

The second 20 firefighters would be hired for January 2025 to staff a Front Line Engine at Station #2, across from the Nanaimo Golf Course.

The cost implication for this decision is $2.4 million in 2025 and growing to 3.1 million in 2027. The hiring represents a tax increase of 1.46 per cent in 2025. The truck’s cost is $1.2 million.

Before the decision, Nanaimo Fire Rescue Chief Tim Doyle gave a presentation to the committee stating there is an urgent need for more firefighters.

“In 2022 we’re projected to exceed 9,600 incidents this year. That will be an increase of nearly 30 per cent from 2021,” said Doyle.

“In the last two months, we’ve responded to almost 50 days of incidents over 27.”

He said that based on data, a consultant in 2017 thought we’d reach this level between 2030 and 2035.

While discussing the approval of the firefighters and equipment Councillor Tyler Brown said his fear “is that if we went down a different route we’re not even catching up to where we need to be let alone taking that look for the future. Obviously, they’re big numbers and I don’t think even the small numbers are trivial especially…as we do know affordability is challenging this community.”

Newly elected City Councillor Janice Perrino said “I hate raising taxes. I hate it but when it comes to the growth of this city it’s unbelievable how much we’ve grown… It’s important that your department grows to be able to handle the magnitude of the work you’ve got ahead of you.”

Councillor Ian Thorpe said while he campaigned on keeping taxes low this decision is based on another of his campaign planks.

“My number one priority is public safety and to me, the motion that is on the floor goes straight to the heart of public safety,” Thorpe said. “This is not a nice-to-have or a would-like-to-have this is a must-have for the good of our citizens.”

The committee unanimously approved a motion for the hiring of firefighters and the purchase of trucks at its meeting Thursday.

The approvals could potentially change as the decisions will have to be given approval at a Nanaimo City Council meeting.

The staff report notes the hiring of all these firefighters could lead to building code compliance issues in the fire halls that will have to be examined in the future.

Last year the former Nanaimo City Council increased its police budget by $2.28 million.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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