MONCTON – The Moncton fire department will stop using volunteer firefighters as of January 1.
The department made the decision to save money, according to Deputy Fire Chief Don McCabe. The program costs the department about $70,000 a year.
“It comes from, they have to be trained,” he said Thursday. “They have to be clothed, you know we provide them (National Fire Protection Association)-approved firefighting gear and those gear have expiry dates.”
He added that there’s also the cost of overtime for training officers and volunteers get an honorarium.
Changes to the way the department responds to fires, means they don’t often call on volunteers any more, McCabe said, explaining that they now respond with three fire engines, instead of two.
McCabe said enrolment has been down and they face a lot of turnover, because the volunteers are not being utilized. There are currently 20 volunteers, down from the 40 they should have.
“It’s budget time of year, and you’re looking at resources that you’re not using and that’s what we did, unfortunately,” he said, adding they didn’t make the decision lightly.
“It was a sad thing to do, because historically speaking, they started the fire department.”
Brian Peddle has been a volunteer with the department for 30 years and serves as secretary and treasurer for the Moncton Volunteer Firefighters Association.
He says he’s noticed a changeover the years.
“I can’t say I was surprised. Really and truly I can’t,” he said. “Our call-outs have been down for multiple years now and we get used less and less.”
He used to work at the CN Rail repair shop and remembers when almost all of his colleagues were volunteer firefighters. At that time, the department would call the shop when there was a major fire.
“We had a dedicated siren and everyone knew what it was,” he said. “Our bosses were very understanding. We would lay down our tools and everybody would go.”
He said he doesn’t believe the change will affect firefighting capabilities.
“They’ve become so much more professional and aggressive fighting fires than we used to be,” he said, but added it’s a loss for Moncton’s history. “I think we’re losing something in an intangible way.”