The Calgary Firefighter’s Association said the safety of river users in the city was impacted when a rescue boat was temporarily taken out of service on Tuesday.
Mike Henson, the association’s president, said the boat services the northwest leg of the Bow River as well as any small lakes with waterfront properties.
Henson said the boat was temporarily removed from service — or browned out — from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
On social media, the CFA pointed to budget concerns as the reason for pulling the boat from service for the day.
“Water rescue coverage in northwest Calgary is significantly delayed at this time. Due to recent budget cuts, there is a lack of available firefighters and trained aquatics personnel in this area,” a CFA tweet read.
Henson said it is extremely rare for the fire department to take this sort of action that directly impacts frontline services.
“So this is the first time in…15 years that we have browned out any service,” said Hanson.
He said that recent pressure on fire and rescue services to cut costs means more service interruptions could be imminent.
This comes just weeks after CFA said the department has been asked to cut $9 million from its 2019 budget.
“This, I believe, could be the way of the future,” said Hanson. “Because of budgetary concerns and because of constraints, it might be a rotating brownout. It may be rotating between different apparatus or different services.”
Hanson said that if there are more impacts to Calgary Fire Department services, the association will continue to let Calgarians know when and where the brownouts are taking place.
The City of Calgary replied to the CFA post and said while cost concerns are real, the recent weather also had an impact on which piece of equipment was benched.
“Calgary Fire decided to proactively reduce overtime costs and to operate within budget,” a City of Calgary tweet read. “With fewer citizens using Calgary’s waterways due to cooler weekday temperatures, we believe the two remaining boats can provide the necessary rescue response when needed.”
Hanson said there were still two other rescue boats along the river ready to respond if needed, but response times to the northwest would have been 10 to 15 minutes longer than normal.
The rescue boat returned to service Tuesday evening but Hanson said the battalion and deputy fire chiefs will be making decisions on whether or not to brownout any other pieces of equipment on a shift-by-shift basis.