Lethbridge City Council unanimously approved the hiring of eight additional firefighters for the Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services at a council meeting on Tuesday. A total of $884,600 will be used from unspent operating funds. Ongoing costs of approximately $1 million to $1.3 million per year will be absorbed by LFES with no additional tax pressure.
“We were seeking the funds for these positions going forward. Of course then we went away looking at a different opportunity on how we’d be able to bring these positions forward and fund them out of the current operating budget. What we did is we looked at that five year trend to see where our insurable opportunities were through our WCB claims, through our long term, and all of those pieces. What we realized is that we have had a surplus for a number of previous years that will be able to offset these funds going forward,” says Greg Adair, the Lethbridge Chief or Fire and Emergency Services.
There have been a number of changes that have affected fire and rescue responses in Lethbridge including:
- Increased long distance transfers
- Responding to emergency calls outside of Lethbridge
- Increased EMS call volumes
- Relocating LFES ambulances to outside communities as their ambulances are unavailable
- Loss of situational awareness of the LFES ambulances due to the loss of EMS dispatch to AHS
- No additional EMS resources added since 2015
The release from the city went on to say that in 2014, LFES entered into an Alberta Health Services EMS contract that allowed EMS resources to help in fire suppression. The model is no longer effective as EMS resources are fully committed to EMS events, leaving very limited capacity to support the fire and rescue operations. EMS contract negotiations with AHS will start in the fall of 2022.
Council also approved Option A: Parallel Service – Base Case. It will provide fire and rescue resources the availability to respond to medical emergencies and be available to engage, safely and effectively, in fire and rescue operations. LFES is still transitioning from three-person to four-person fire apparatus. This transition started in 2021 to make sure LFES deploys 24 firefighters on each platoon.