Penticton, B.C. councillor wants to hire firefighters sooner than planned

Two Penticton firefighters battling a structure fire on Skaha Lake Road in August. Mike Biden / Twitter

The dire need for more firefighters in Penticton, B.C. could be met sooner rather than later.

At the end off Tuesday’s council meeting, councillor Campbell Watt gave his colleagues a “heads up” that he does not want to wait until budget deliberations to start the process of hiring more firefighters.

“At our next meeting, I’ll be bringing a notice of motion that would have us expedite the process to get a full complement of firefighters in place about four years early without any impact to the taxpayer,” said Watt on Tuesday.

He went on to say that more details will be provided on the motion as he writes it up.

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Meanwhile, the Penticton Fire Department currently has 36 staff on the payroll, with four additional members scheduled to be hired over the next several years.

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Although the exact details of Watt’s motion have yet to be finalized, an immediate roster of 40 would help meet the standard goal of four firefighters on each truck.

Click to play video: 'Penticton Fire Department understaffed and overworked'
Penticton Fire Department understaffed and overworked

The notice of motion follows calls for immediate action from the Penticton Firefighters Union. Back in September, the union said their crew members were overworked and, in many cases, facing burnout.

“Our guys are burnt out and tired and worn out. We’ve had a significant uptick in mental health issues that put people on leave,” said union president Curtis Gibbons in September.

“We seem to always be playing catch up, instead of planning for an appropriate model that would grow with the community.”

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According to the union, resources are stretched thin due to an increase of over a 1000 calls over the last couple years and added pressure from the opioid crisis.

“We’re a lot busier with medical calls. We’re dealing with the opioid crisis, boots on the ground. We’re going to multiple overdoses a day,” he said.

Global News did reach out to Councillor Watt and the Penticton Fire Department however they did not want to comment until after this motion is brought to council on December 20th.

Click to play video: '‘Stretched too thin’: Kelowna firefighters union says crews fighting fires with unsafe staffing'
‘Stretched too thin’: Kelowna firefighters union says crews fighting fires with unsafe staffing

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