Thompson, Man., firefighters facing burnout crisis due to staffing woes

Click to play video: 'Thompson Firefighters’ Association sounding alarm over staffing vacancies'
Thompson Firefighters’ Association sounding alarm over staffing vacancies
Thompson Professional Firefighters Association president Travis Mirus says they're short about a third of their work force, with no signs of relief. – Mar 14, 2024

Thompson, Man., is facing a crisis when it comes to staffing the city’s fire department.

The president of the Thompson Professional Firefighters Association says there are supposed to be 24 firefighters who are cross-trained as paramedics to serve the community. Still, currently there are only 16, leading to overtime and burnout.

“Right now we’re short about eight positions,” Travis Mirus told Global Winnipeg. “We’re split up onto a four-on/four-off rotation, so to maintain services for our community, we run four separate shifts for 24/7 fire protection and EMS protection — so that’s leaving us short an entire shift for our city.”

Mirus said his members will continue to work overtime to maintain the minimum number of shifts to respond to emergencies… but says it’s not sustainable in the long run.

Each of the 16 firefighters, he said, has tallied around 500 hours of overtime.

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“In 2002, our service responded to about 2,500 calls for fire and EMS emergencies with the same number of members. We’re shorter now and respond to over 9,000 calls annually, with no increase in staffing. That means people are just burning out.”

Click to play video: 'Thompson mayor on firefighter staffing concerns'
Thompson mayor on firefighter staffing concerns

Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook said it’s proving difficult to retain firefighters in northern Manitoba when opportunities become available elsewhere.

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Thompson, located more than 760 kilometres north of Winnipeg, often struggles to fill vacancies inhealth care and other industries due to its remote location.

“It only takes working in Thompson about six months to a year to the most, and you’re qualified for higher-ranking positions in other places,” Smook said, “if you want to get back home or to a bigger city.”

Promising conversations between the City of Thompson and the new NDP provincial government are already underway, however, and she believes help is on the way to get the community out of its dire situation.

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“When I wrote a very concerning letter… not long after they have been in (office), they’ve already answered the call,” she said. “We’ve already started having meetings with them.

“Maybe the last government didn’t find the urgency.”

Smook said discussions are also underway with Shared Health and the Brandon Fire College.

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