Colwood council is set to vote on a staff recommendation which would see the pay structure of Colwood Fire Rescue change significantly over the next three years.
In a report discussed recently at committee of the whole, Fire Chief Bryan Erwin wrote that the proposed changes would see the fire hall staffed 24 hours a day, with remuneration changes implemented in phases over the coming years.
In the first year, the proposal would see all volunteer firefighters on shift in the station compensated at a flat, nightly rate. In the second year, additional firefighters called in to attend large or complex incidents would receive per-call pay.
The third year calls for incentive pay for off-shift training to be implemented.
In his report, Erwin noted the department’s volunteer members first raised the topic of a paid-on-call system in 2019, in response to increased pressures being placed on them. In 2021, the department responded to 865 calls for service, 683 of which were emergency responses, representing a call volume increase of 29 percent over the past five years and 68 per cent over the past 10 years.
“As a result, our volunteers are experiencing higher pressures, now more than ever, when you consider the time constraints and balancing act required to manage their own personal lives, family commitments and work obligations,” wrote Erwin. “These accumulation of forces on our members is largely why our existing volunteer response model is unsustainable.”
The proposed changes would also allow the department to provide more consistent response times throughout the entire day. Currently, Erwin wrote, the city’s lone fire station is staffed by one crewed truck each day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but for the other 12 hours the station is unsafe and volunteer members must first respond to the station, get suited up then attend the call.
As for financial impact, the recommended changes would cost the city an estimated $198,000 extra the first year, $324,100 for the second and $397,900 in the third. After all three phases are implemented, there would be a 1.5 per cent annual cost of living increase to the recurring expenses.
The committee voted unanimously Feb. 7 to adopt the recommendation, which comes before council on Feb. 14 for further discussion.