Calgary firefighters’ union slams move to extend fire response times in new communities

Click to play video: 'Calgary councilors sound the alarm over proposed firefighter response changes' Calgary councilors sound the alarm over proposed firefighter response changes
WATCH: Some Calgary politicians are sounding the alarm over proposed changes to the firefighter response times in new neighbourhoods. Jill Croteau reports – Mar 5, 2018

A city committee is recommending the City of Calgary approve new fire department response times for new community developments.

Members of the planning and urban development committee approved an interim fire response time of 10 minutes, 90 per cent of the time, in a 6-3 vote on Monday.

A report put before council Monday suggested the city return to the provincial building code policy that recommends fire response times be up to 10 minutes, instead of the current seven-minute city guideline for new housing developments.

The proposed changes would not affect established communities.

WATCH: A city committee report is recommending fire response time standards for new housing developments be increased from 7 to 10 minutes. Global News Morning Calgary’s Doug Vaessen has the details.

Click to play video: 'City of Calgary studies fire response times in new communities' City of Calgary studies fire response times in new communities
City of Calgary studies fire response times in new communities – Mar 5, 2018

The city administration said this would be a short-term goal and would change back to the seven-minute guideline once the community is completed and a fire hall is built.

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The firefighters union said there’s risk associated with lengthening the response time.

“The further you stretch that, the further it takes for everybody to get there and the more risk compounds on top of that,” said Calgary Firefighters Association president Mike Carter.

Coun. Shane Keating said on his website this kind of information is misleading and that there’s no way the city would put people’s lives in danger.

“The common line I’m hearing is that this decision means that grandma is going to die because responders won’t get there soon enough,” Keating said in a post on his website Friday. “Frankly, I’m not seeing this claim backed by the evidence.”

It costs about $3.5 million to operate a fire hall, Keating said.

“So how do we pay for that? If we want to build more fire halls and have more areas supported, there needs to be [an] adjacent development that would help the fire hall pay for itself,” Keating said.

According to a letter from the firefighters union, it was recommended that sprinklers be installed in the new builds as a way to mitigate fire risk.

However, a report presented at city council on Monday stated sprinklers could not be used as fire mitigation due to enforcement problems. The city did recognize that they could be used to reduce the spread of fire.

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With files from Justin Slimm, Doug Vaessen and Aurelio Perri

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