A preliminary report released by the Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association (OPFFA) indicates residents in the downtown area have an increased likelihood of being fire casualties as compared to other parts of the city.
The finding comes following the deaths of four people, including a mother and her two children, in a house fire at Centre Street North on Jan. 8.
“In April of 2017, the city cut the number of front-line fire apparatuses of Station 1 in the downtown core. We went from two to one. So they essentially cut it in half,” OPFFA president Peter Dyson told Global News.
“The downtown area in Oshawa is a very vulnerable population in the city. That’s based on census data from Statistics Canada, based on the age of the individuals, the socioeconomic status of the individuals, the age of the housing there. And that’s the most vulnerable area of the city but it’s the area of the city that has the least staffing right now.”
Dyson said the union is calling on city officials to release call data to complete a thorough risk assessment of the city’s response times.
“We don’t know what the outcome of the report will be. We want the science to speak for itself and the data,” Dyson said.
“We’ve asked the city many times to work with us, but unfortunately we’ve been told by management that they don’t even want to read our report. They don’t believe we should be doing the report.”
VIDEO: Oshawa firefighters union asking for data to complete report on response times
The union said the Centre Street North fire was the fourth fatal structure fire in downtown Oshawa in 12 months, following fatal fires in 2017 on Brock Street West, Park Road South and Grenfell Street.
“Oshawa’s downtown core has a lot of older building stock. We have a building boom going on there right now,” Dyson said.
“We have highrises going in. Currently, in Oshawa, we have our lowest staffing numbers since I can remember and many of the senior firefighters can remember, especially with the removal of a truck in downtown Oshawa.”
Dyson said previous requests for response time data from the fire chief and senior management have fallen on deaf ears.
“To this point, we’ve asked the fire chief to release the data. We’ve asked the mayor to release the data. And senior management in the city to release the data and nobody has released it as of yet,” Dyson said.
“We believe the data is public information. We have started the Freedom of Information request process but we’re hopeful that this city will just release the data to us so we can get on with the report.”
VIDEO: 4 people dead including 2 children after house fire in Oshawa