Letter: Four firefighters absolute minimum to meet emergency needs

Dear Editor,

I was astonished to read the comments by J. Jordan [Too many firefighters too expensive, April 3 Letters, Langley Advance] calling for reduced firefighters in Langley City.

I am not an IAFF member, but have been a paid on call (POC) member of Langley City Fire Rescue Service for 33 years, so I think I can speak candidly on this issue.

The minimum four-man staffing is not only industry standard (NFPA), but essential. I have responded to calls on apparatus with two and three personnel, and I can tell you that you quickly find yourself short of manpower for almost anything. You become almost ineffectual.

Calls often come in multiples, spreading your crews thin even when using the POC system. The on-shift team may have a medical call one minute, then an motor vehicle accident the next, requiring all the manpower, so it is not effective to reduce the on-shift team.

Langley City has one hall with a complement of POC to back up the on-shift team. On incidents that are more than just medical, public assist, or a second page, the POC are paged to respond.

We have to leave our homes and businesses, often getting dressed in the middle of the night, and respond to the hall. A minimum of five to eight minutes have elapsed.

We gear up and get into the rigs and respond to the call – perhaps another five minutes – making our response between 10 and 15 minutes.

I don’t know about you, but if I was trapped in a car after a horrific MVA, a burning house, fallen into a ravine, in the middle of a hazardous material spill or a gas leak, or even stuck in an elevator, I would want a team there who can deal with the situation until additional help arrives.

Remember, Someone has to be in charge to assess the situation for the safety of the crew and citizens, and plan a course of action. Another is needed to operate the pump, leaving only two members to actually deal with the incident.

Having been there many times, a four-man team is definitely the minimum you would want to respond to most calls.

With the ambulance protocols now involving longer wait times, many of the first aid calls involve a long patient care process. Performing CPR for 45 minutes or attending more serious wounds often need the entire team’s personnel, especially when the patient has to be moved to a clear air or safe environment.

Citizens are indeed welcome to scrutinize all department operations, but in this case, the question of manpower is unfounded. 

Criticize wages, benefits, or the cost of equipment, if you feel you must, but a fire apparatus needs a minimum of four responders.

Bruce Kilby, Langley

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