Moose Jaw firefighters publicize safety concerns

Watch above: The firefighters’ union in Moose Jaw is speaking out about safety concerns at the local departments. Sarah Kraus reports.

MOOSE JAW, Sask. – The firefighters’ union in Moose Jaw, Sask. says its members are tired of looking over their shoulders and not getting straight answers.

Now the union is taking its concerns public. The president wrote a letter to residents outlining a number of safety concerns.

“We felt like enough was enough and we wanted to put it out there to these people,” said Gord Hewitt, union president. “It’s their tax dollars that support this service, and maybe they need to know some of the things going on.”

Administration isn’t surprised by the move and said it will continue to work with the union.

“We respect the association and their desire to communicate with the public,” said Deputy Fire Chief Brian Wilson.

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A week ago, Global News reported all five local fire dispatchers were laid off and the work was centralized to a call centre in Prince Albert.

However, that’s not the only thing worrying firefighters. The letter from the Moose Jaw Firefighters’ Association talks about things like the loss of their only mechanic.

“Our mechanic, who was here before, continuously worked preventative maintenance on all our stuff, so our equipment was always ready,” said Hewitt. “Our fear is that we’re moving to a system where we fix things when they’re broken.”

Wilson said city crews can pick up the job.

“The city’s fleet services are ultimately looking after our fleet today, and they have a crew of mechanics available. What’s happened in the past in Moose Jaw was if our mechanic was sick or away, the city fleet looked after it.”

The fire department has also been running short two firefighters since last November. Those positions have not been filled.

“If they’re not going to hire to replace these two people that left, eventually we’re just going to not be replacing firefighters and dropping that minimum staffing level,” said Hewitt.

Right now, Moose Jaw must have at least 10 firefighters working at any given time, five at each station. The union is scared that number could drop to eight.

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The deputy chief said that decision lies in the hands of city council, as they set the fire budget each year.

“It’s ultimately their directive as to what positions they want filled, and the level of service they provide to the city.”

Wilson added safety is at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

“The City of Moose Jaw is always going to have a fire department and we’re always going to have a good fire department that’s trained to meet the needs of its community and public safety here in the city. That’s never going to change.”

Since sharing the letter, Hewitt has been impressed with the response.

“The public support and stuff that we’ve heard or seen towards the fire service, that does make us feel good.”

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