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Does the Township have enough firefighters?

Township of Langley fire crews at the scene of a fatal townhouse fire on Old Yale Road in November. - Shane MacKichen photo
Township of Langley fire crews at the scene of a fatal townhouse fire on Old Yale Road in November.
— image credit: Shane MacKichen photo

The Township of Langley fire department doesn’t have enough firefighters to meet industry standards, but that is not a safety hazard, fire chief Stephen Gamble told Township council on Monday (Dec. 9).

Gamble said the department has an average of 18 firefighters working per shift when the generally accepted minimum is 20.

“We run fairly lean compared to some of the other fire departments in the GVRD [Metro Vancouver]” Gamble said.

Gamble was responding to questions from councillor Kim Richter, who said there have been suggestions on some “social media” sites that as many as half the Township fire trucks are understaffed.

The chief said about 20 per cent of the time, Langley fire trucks are operating with three- instead of four-person crews, which is below industry standards but does not mean increased risk to the firefighters.

Gamble said it can mean a longer wait before firefighters can enter a burning building because a three-man crew is too small to meet a “two in, two out” safety rule that forbids them from going in alone.

A four-person fire crew has one supervisor and one person in charge of equipment, which leaves two available for entry, Gamble explained.

A three-person crew doesn’t.

That means going into “defensive mode” and waiting for more firefighters to arrive before going in, Gamble said.

“We don’t put firefighters into a situation that is not safe,” Gamble said.

The chief said the decision by Township council to hire eight “floater” firefighters has improved the situation by allowing the department to fill in for firefighters who are injured or on leave.

Gamble said he would recommend a minimum of 20 firefighters per shift, but whether the goal is reached  a little at a time or all at once is up to council.

“It’s always what you can afford,” Gamble said.

“You’ve got seven fire halls here [in the Township].”

The fire department has been asked by council to prepare a report on the issue for an upcoming meeting of council.

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