Two fire stations in eastern Scarborough are slated to lose one truck each in a move to hold down the Toronto Fire Services budget.
And while the department is promising only “a marginal increase in response times” after the cuts, at least one Scarborough councillor isn’t so sure.
“I want to know the coverage we expect is still maintained,” said Ron Moeser, who expected to meet Friday, Dec. 14, with Toronto Fire Chief Jim Sales to discuss Station 215, which is in his Scarborough East ward. “If that’s compromised, then I’m going to be upset about it.”
As part of his department’s proposed 2013 gross operating budget of $369 million, Sales presented a plan to close one Swansea fire station altogether and, in four other stations, cut the number of trucks from two to one. Station 215 is on Lawrence Avenue East at Centennial Road. Station 213, which is in the same district (www.toronto.ca/fire/stations/east_command.htm) on Lapsley Road at Burrows Hall Boulevard is also slated to lose a truck.
“Removal of secondary vehicles in fire stations will increase the number of runs for the remaining vehicle, as well as for vehicles in adjacent fire halls,” a briefing note to city hall’s budget committee acknowledged this week, but said improvements in dispatching may “mitigate” increases in response time from the loss of trucks.
Ed Kennedy, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association, said the reorganization will have a “significant impact” on response times, enough to put residents and firefighters at risk. Instead of arriving at a fire simultaneously, a second truck near one of the two Scarborough stations could be 30 seconds or a minute behind the first, Kennedy said.
“In our business, seconds make the difference, not minutes.” Kennedy said the five stations were targeted because they respond to the least amount of calls, but they still respond to on average 1,000 per year and cutting them back is “not fair to someone around the corner,” he said, suggesting nearby residents should call councillors to say “this cannot happen.”
Assigned to Station 215 himself, Kennedy said the area has seen population growth, particularly in Port Union. A single truck may also be missing from a fire hall, “two or three times, minimum” during a week for training or maintenance, he said.
The Lawrence Avenue station is also responsible for responding to emergencies at chemical plants in the Manse Valley area, which are linked to a siren warning system as part of special precautions. Moeser said every possible effect from the cut, including a “worst-case scenario,” must be examined. He admitted there are budgetary pressures across the city and “part of our job is to look at working efficiently” but said he wants to make sure no one in the community is put at risk.
Raymond Cho, councillor for the Malvern and Burrows Hall areas, could not be reached for comment about Station 213 this week. The city’s 2013 operating budget is set to be approved next month. Toronto Council is also expected next March to hear results of an organizational study which could change how the city’s fire and emergency medical services are delivered.