The fire departments of Queens County presented to the Region of Queens council on Jan. 21, and they all had the same message: we need an audit.
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The audit would give them an unbiased opinion of their equipment and their needs said Mark Sapp, chair of Mutual Aid. It would also make it easier to apply for other funding.
Funding for an audit was in the 2012-2013 Region budget, however due to staffing changes and time constraints a tender was never put forward. The funding will remain available for the next fiscal year, and Region chief administrative officer Kathleen Rafuse says they hope to get an audit underway in the next four months. The audit is budgeted at about $35,000.
The chiefs of all six departments also gave updates on work done over the past year. There were some common themes between the departments as well.
Medical emergencies make up much of the department's calls each year, up to half in some departments. Out of 55 calls in Greenfield, for example, 29 were medical.
Each fire department lets EHS know what level of service they can provide. Liverpool only goes out if assistance is requested, for example, because the ambulance depot is nearby. North Queens are first responders however, and are called for just about every medical call due to the time it takes for an ambulance to get to the area.
Coun. Darlene Norman asked if they could either stop doing EHS calls or have a separate organization handle them like the West Queens First Responders.
Greenfield Chief Moyal Conrad says splitting out the EHS component would just download the problems to a new group, and the departments need to have first responders at a fire scene anyway.
It was proposed to look into asking EHS for funding for the fire departments for medical calls, which will be discussed at a later date.
On the funding side, purchasing and testing of equipment ties up most of their funding, the chief's said. Training also takes up time and money, with thousands of hours put in by the members over the past year.
Membership numbers are also an issue the departments are facing. Most are struggling to keep their numbers up, which is causing strain on existing membership.
"It means we have to do more with less members. It also runs the risk of burning out our existing members," said Liverpool chief Stephen Parnell.
Port Medway purchased a thermal imaging camera last year, using a $5,000 grant from Nova Scotia Power.
Donations and fundraising for the department topped $21,000, making up about a third of their operating revenue, said Chief Kendall Farmer.
The Port Medway fire hall is in need of renovations to its kitchen and bathrooms, at a cost of $67,000. Last year they applied for a grant from the province and were denied, however they were told to apply again this year when the funding becomes available.
Two of their trucks are starting to show their age, one 28 and one 33 years old, and will need replacing in the coming years.
Chief Donald Whynot said their were lots of little things that their funding went to, from lights and radios up to full bunker gear.
The firehall also needed some work, with upgrades to the facility and lighting, upgrades to the kitchen and replacement of their refrigerators. Their rescue van is due for replacement in 2017
To help with costs, Greenfield has been partnering with North Queens on their training when possible, said Chief Conrad. He said 2012 was a busy year for training as well, for HAZMAT, incident command, crime scene management and traffic control on top of their regular training.
Last year Greenfield put in a fair bit of work into their hall, said Chief Conrad, replacing the roof, some windows and the bathrooms.
Greenfield is also looking to put away $5,000 this year for truck replacement.
Last year North Queens, put a lot of emphasis on training, said Chief David Lohnes. In total the members put in 1,300 hours worth, not including the medical training, with more slated for this year.
Chief Lohnes added they see most of their budget for 2013 going into repair and replacement of equipment.
North Queens is still looking to build a new fire hall, and will be making a presentation to council in February.
Spokesperson for the department Michael Morton said their department funding mostly went into protective gear for members, as well as some equipment for the trucks. Like other departments, they are struggling for members, and went down to 13 in 2012.
Chief Stephen Parnell explained a bit more about the necessity of all of the training each department needs each year. Fire Fighters are expected to do much more than in the past, and are the default call when a 911 call is not medical or police. This means they need training in many areas.
The biggest need for Liverpool is the replacement of their ladder truck, which is now 32 years old. Chief Parnell said maintenance and safety issues mean it needs to be replaced soon.