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Calgary firefighter union calls recommendation to close downtown fire hall ‘a disaster in the making’

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WATCH: Calgary's firefighter union and a downtown councillor are speaking out after hearing of a recommendation to close the Eau Claire fire hall for budget reasons. Michael King reports – Oct 31, 2020

Calgary’s budget will be the focus for city council once deliberations start late in November, but there are already talks of cuts to essential services.

Ward 8 Coun. Evan Wooley said he’s been told that city administration plans to close a downtown fire hall to better staff other parts of the city while keeping costs down.

“The suggestion is that there will be the closure of the No. 6 station,” said Wooley. “The firefighters from the station would move to the new and yet-to-be-opened Livingston station.”

Read more: Longer wait times expected following budget cuts: Calgary fire chief

Livingston is a newly built community in Calgary’s northwest, and Wooley said the idea to move firefighters from downtown to the outskirts of the city is irresponsible.

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“We’re seeing property taxes raised to fund the operations of new communities, and in some cases, communities where nobody lives yet,” said Wooley.

Fire Station 6 was opened in 2010 and is located in the downtown community of Eau Claire. Wooley said it costs $3 million a year to run the station.

It houses a fire engine along with an aerial high-rise unit and one of Calgary’s aquatic rescue teams.

Matt Osborne, the vice-president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, said the proposed closure would impact response times in the city’s core communities.

“Emergencies don’t change. What happens is other fire halls now have to come out of their communities… and the firefighters in the fire halls get stretched thinner,” said Osborne. “Removing firehouse six is a disaster in the making.”

Read more: Cuts to Calgary Fire Department, police service, transit as council approves $60M budget reduction

Osborne said one reason why the hall could be singled out for closure is that there are several other fire halls in the downtown area that could respond if needed.

But Wooley said there’s a reason why areas with high-rise apartment buildings and office towers need more resources.

“Fighting fires [in high-rise buildings] is more complex, and you need that [density],” Wooley said. “You might be able to get from the fire hall station to the curb of any office or condo tower, but you still need to get to the 25th floor.”
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City administration has not yet added the recommendations to city council’s agenda but Osborne expects it will be brought forward on Nov. 9.