The Kelowna Professional Firefighters Association claims its members were once again forced to fight fires with unsafe staffing levels.
Jason Picklyk, president of the association, stated that the city requires another two staffed engine companies in order to comply with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1710 Standard.
He said that by NFPA standards, 28 firefighters should be on scene within eight minutes of notification. Picklyk said that on July 23, there were only 23 firefighters on duty, below the standard that is set.
On this day, the Quail Ridge neighbourhood had an apartment fire, which crews arrived at with the below standard number of members on scene, according to Picklyk. There was a delay in response for one engine due to another medical call and waiting for a BC Ambulance, which was also short of ambulances in Kelowna on July 23.
While crews were responding to Quail Ridge there was another call out for a possible boat explosion at the marina on Bernard Avenue. Things were further complicated when there was a report of a structure fire at an apartment on Ellis Street, which forced crews to leave Quail Ridge to respond to downtown Kelowna, luckily the incident was not a blaze but instead excessive smoke from a BBQ. However, crews were unable to return to Quail Ridge to assist in that fire.
“The stacking of calls during this time drained resources of an already stressed resourced department,” said Picklyk.
Steve Brandel, now retired 20-year veteran of the Kelowna Fire Department, claims the city has approximately half of the minimum personnel recommended to fight a fire in any of the city’s high-rise buildings.
“How many wake up calls does it take to have the budgetary decision makers at city hall that they are playing with fire with the citizens of Kelowna and its visitor safety?” said Picklyk.
He also stated that the delays in response were compounded by the B.C. ambulance service being understaffed.
Picklyk said that over the weekend, firefighters had to put their safety at risk to make sure the public was safe.