Neighbourhood residents can breathe a sigh of relief – at least for now – as city council voted to save the Runnymede fire station during its budget meeting Wednesday, Jan. 16.
While approving Toronto’s 2013 operating budget, city council voted to restore 83 frontline firefighter positions and to maintain fire trucks slated for removal from five stations as part of the Toronto fire chief’s plan to cut costs.
“It’s a relief, but it’s not over yet,” Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette told The Villager. “We’ve got a six-month reprieve.”
The $3.1 million spending injection was approved pending the outcome of an efficiency study on fire and EMS as well as a fire insurance underwriters’ review.
“What this means is, we can work with Toronto’s fire chief to really, really see where services should be,” said Doucette. “What I find interesting, is that I don’t think all the development coming into my ward was taken into account.”
Plus, the number of emergency calls coming into Runnymede station are slowly on the rise, Doucette pointed out.
“We have to wait six months until we have a chance to analyze the reports,” she said.
Nevertheless, she and the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association (TPFFA) are pleased with the outcome of Wednesday’s council meeting. The TPFFA officially commended city council for its efforts in a statement issued that evening.
“Toronto council made the right decision today and public safety is the winner,” said TPFFA’s Ed Kennedy. “Councillors clearly recognized that decisions surrounding fire department resources and response times are extremely important and that the proposed cuts in the 2013 budget had been made without proper study and due diligence.”
Firefighters had expressed concern that the city was preparing to make critical public safety decisions without knowing their full impact and without consulting the public. The five vehicles slated for removal in Scarborough, High Park, Etobicoke and Riverdale responded to more than 6,300 emergency calls in 2011, according to the TPFFA.
“The people who live in these areas can breathe easier,” said Kennedy. “Toronto firefighters will continue to work with council and the public to ensure adequate fire department capabilities in all areas of the city now and in the future.”