The proposed 2023 budget for Fort Saskatchewan has a few implications for the local fire department.
Two new changes to the department were outlined in the document, the first proposes that two new full-time positions are added while the second is asking for a second complete set of bunker equipment, which will add up to about 40 more sets of individual equipment.
Darrick Graff, the president of the Fort Saskatchewan Fire Fighters Association, says that the two new full-time positions won't necessarily add more firefighters to the overall staff.
"They are hiring from our paid-on-call positions," said Graff. "It's two additional full-time positions, there won't be any additional personnel in the station ready to respond."
"It's an initial step in getting where we want to be."
Fire Chief Todd Martens hopes the positions can help to alleviate staffing shortages.
"These positions will help with some of the challenges we are seeing with overtime, training, sick time, and some of the leave that our members take," said Martens.
The new set of bunker gear will help to replace some gear that is expiring and for members to have a second set available.
"This is to help reduce the risk of cancer among fire department members," said Martens. "This will also help our members get back in service quicker so that we have the ability to wash and clean our bunker gear annually."
While these are some good first steps to help the fire department do its job, Graff says there is still plenty that needs to be done to help shorten response times.
"[These changes] are not going to get us very far in respect to our response times and getting adequate personnel in a timely fashion," said Graff. "We're optimistic that these are the initial steps but, in the end, we need a plan moving forward."
It does appear that a more in-depth plan is in the works. At the moment, the city council is working with Martens to help plot a path forward that will make everyone happy.
"We're currently reviewing the fire service master plan right now and that plan entails a 10-year vision," said Martens. "That plan is due to come back to the city council in early December for review and discussion."
The proposed cost of the two new full-time positions runs about $261,383 while the new equipment cost is labelled at $220,000.
As always with budget deliberations, this is subject to change until after the budget is eventually approved.