THUNDER BAY — The firefighters union says there will be significant service cuts if Thunder Bay city council accepts recommendations of the consultant it hired to prepare a new Strategic Master Plan.
The draft report from Barrie-based Emergency Management and Training Inc. was made public Thursday.
Its recommendations include not only to replace the Vickers Fire Station with a smaller facility, but also to look at consolidating the Vickers and Water Street stations at a more central location, and changing the James Street station into a paramedic base.
Firefighters at that station would be assigned to medical responses only.
The Thunder Bay Professional Firefighters Association was quick to respond, saying in a statement Friday that these and other proposals amount to cuts in "essential Fire Rescue services across the municipality."
The report, it said "proposes several budget decreases that will negatively impact fire response times as well as the general safety of on-duty firefighters."
In its statement, the TBFFA outlined its assessment of the consequences:
- service cuts in Northwood, Westfort and McKellar
- closure of two or more fire stations
- loss of 4-minute response times
- elimination of access to one fire pumper
- elimination of two Entry Control and Accountability Officer positions
Entry Control and Accountability Officers are responsible for monitoring the safety of firefighters during all rescues.
It was no secret that the firefighters union had concerns about the strategic planning process from the outset.
Last March, a representative sharply criticized the exercise, saying it was flawed, biased and rushed.
Eric Nordlund said council had given administration a mandate to look for cuts that he believed would only result in reductions in emergency services and a loss of jobs.
In Friday's statement, TBFFA President Dennis Brescasin said "We understand city council is facing budget pressures and looking for new ways to reduce municipal spending. What we can't understand however is any proposal that recommends minimal cost savings that forfeit public safety and the lives of on-duty firefighters."
Brescasin said the association believes there are other ways to find budget efficiencies "without putting people's lives at risk."
City council will receive the consultant's report at its Dec. 9 meeting, but is not scheduled to vote on the recommendations until February.