Chatham-Kent fire truck. (Photo by Natalia Vega)Chatham-Kent fire truck. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

CK Council approves 10-year fire master plan

A Chatham-Kent fire master plan that has been in development for more than three years has received approval from Chatham-Kent Council.

In a unanimous vote, Council agreed to the 10-year plan that Dillon Consulting drafted.

"There are a lot of things in here saying what we should be doing, and I think collectively we need to work out what we can be doing. I think we need to be realistic in what we can achieve over a 10-year life cycle," said Fire Chief Chris Case.

The fire master plan was developed to address the needs of a growing community. And while the budget played an important factor in the proposal, Ward 6 councilor Marjorie Crew urged her fellow councilors to look past the numbers.

"I think it's very important for everyone to look at this and look at it as a road map for our emergency services in the future. We need to have a plan for where we are going and how Chief Case will look for operating budget dollars," said Crew. "Don't be afraid that you're going to be approving a multi-million-dollar budget here tonight we are approving a road map for the future of our emergency services."

The "road map" included these recommendations:

  • Changing the deployment method of firefighters to the simultaneous deployment of the closest career and volunteer firefighters.

  • Prioritizing the development of a financial strategy to implement two career District Chiefs positions on duty at all times, for a total of eight positions.

  • The potential to add a third fire station in Chatham as the city continues to grow.

  • Possibly moving Station One (in Chatham) with the optimal location for the relocated station being along Richmond/Park Street between Lacroix Street and William Street.

  • Developing a financial strategy to hire more firefighters.

As for how much this plan will cost, Suzanne Charbonneau-Dent, the technical service lead and technical group strategist for CK Fire and Emergency Services, said that they stayed with a blueprint or strategic roadmap and didn't go into the cost component of implementing the plan.

"Our understanding is that [the cost] is set as a next step to the process," said Charbonneau-Dent. "I know from my experience that a well-operating composite fire service delivery model really does bring the best value to a community -- especially one like Chatham-Kent."

Case said that the idea is for each year to approach the budget with proposals from the master plan to avoid inundating Council with requests and costs.

"As we build upwards the number of firefighters, you need increases exponentially. Low-level firefighting is one thing, but the minute we get into a high-rise building that's the minute we have a perfect storm brewing," said Case. "We are growing. We are going to need more firefighting protection services and from a professional perspective we are going to need some help with the big-ticket items when it comes to enabling that growth of fire protection."

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