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Moose Jaw firefighters sound alarm over staffing reduction

MOOSE JAW – Firefighters in Moose Jaw are sounding the alarm over changes to minimum staffing levels.

Effective Monday, only nine firefighters need to work at any given time, which is down from the previous ten.

The city says the change is meant as a way to increase efficiency, but the union says members are concerned for their safety.

“With ten firefighters we’re already well below the nationally recognized standard set by the National Fire Protection Association and now we’re moving one step further from that,” said Gord Hewitt, with the Moose Jaw Firefighters Association.

When there’s a fire in Moose Jaw both the South Hill and the North Hill stations respond. However, instead of having at least five members working at each station at one time, the North Hill hall could now have as few as four.

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If members from the North Hill station arrive first, the union says it’s a safety concern.

“I have to be honest with you, if there’s someone trapped in a house and there’s a fire, our people aren’t going to sit outside and wait. When I talk about our jobs getting more dangerous, there’s one less person there,” said Hewitt.

However, the city and the fire station managers are emphasizing that safety is not being compromised. Moose Jaw has an average of ten structure fires a year and the new minimum staffing level is said to be adequate.

“We can compare against Prince Albert, that’s our closest competitor, where staffing level is set at eight,” said Fire Chief Rod Montgomery. “My son is a firefighter and my other one just graduated from fire college. Certainly I wouldn’t have an issue putting them in this type of model,” said Montgomery.

No one is losing their job over these changes, though a couple of people who left over the past year are not being replaced.

The city confirms an office manager was recently hired for the fire department.

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