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Saanich council approves 10-year strategy to support fire department needs

Needs from Saanich community have increased for emergency responders, chief says
The Saanich Fire Department has seen an increasing need for their services over the past decade. A 10-year funding strategy approved this week aims to address that demand. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)

A 10-year funding strategy to support fire operations, staffing and equipment needs was unanimously approved by council at an Oct. 25 committee of the whole meeting.

Climate change, flooding, a higher rate of emergency calls and expected population growth in Saanich are said to need support as the district’s fire department navigates these challenges.

Responses undertaken by the department have increased by more than 35 per cent over the past decade, a report from staff said.

Approving a 15-year funding plan was among the other options given, along with directing staff to bring back more information, and a flexible plan that would allow council to identify other alternatives.

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Speaking in support of the approved motion, Coun. Zac de Vries while fire operations are one of most essential services the municipality provides, he felt most comfortable with a 10-year strategy given uncertainty around climate.

“We’ll do another fire services review within the next 10 years, it seems most appropriate to match those time frames,” he said.

Fire department projections are that total incident responses will increase 25 per cent over 2018 levels by 2027. The department had 4,907 responses in 2018 and estimates it will total 6,540 in 2027.

“We’ve seen some significant fire events in the province as a whole and Saanich has been a key stakeholder and key player in responding to those events,” Fire Chief Mike Burgess said at the meeting. ” We continue to prepare for climate change and the events we’re experiencing.”

Considered an “all-hazards” department, the Saanich Fire Department has adopted service levels that include response to medical, motor vehicle and hazardous materials incidents.

They also respond to explosions, alarm activations, electrical hazards, marine rescue, public service and a full range of fire incident types.

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