The Fire Services Review shows non-standard response times in Cumberland County Pi News

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Only four of the 19 fire departments serving the municipality of Cumberland County meet both recommended response times and personnel standards for their demand zones, and a Nova Scotia fire chief says the situation is unlikely to improve until people come forward to put out the fire.

A municipal fire services review released to the council last week found slower response times than recommended, as well as a shortage of older vehicles and younger staff. It requires nearly $ 40 million to replace outdated infrastructure and equipment.

“There will be delays if junior members are not included here,” said Truman Ruston, chief of Oxford Fire Department, whose department is made up mostly of firefighters who have served for more than 20 years.

“It’s going to be tough.”

According to the consultant’s report, only Leicester, Trumanville, Wallace and Westchester met the fire departments, personnel and response time standards for their demand zones.

Standards set by the National Committee

Standard response times for volunteer fire departments are set by the National Fire Safety Association and vary based on population and building density. Departments are encouraged, but not required to meet standards.

To meet standards in rural demand zones such as Wentworth, at least six firefighters must respond at least 80 percent of the time in 14 minutes. In suburban demand zones, such as areas of Bookwash, 10 volunteers must respond within 10 minutes, up to 80 percent of the time. In urban demand zones, part of Springhill falls under the minimum requirement of 15 firefighters in nine minutes, 90 percent of the time.

The Amherst, Oxford and Five Islands departments were included in the review because they are under contract to protect areas adjacent to the district. The review suggests that a mutual aid organization should be formalized in writing.

Bill Ireland, director of emergency services for the Cumberland municipality, said keeping all volunteer fire departments at the same response time standard was not as straightforward as on paper.

“Volunteer firefighters in Cumberland County are usually called to the fire station from home or work and then have to travel long distances to reach the emergency location,” Ireland said. “It’s not something that complies with the standards.”

Recruitment, retention is a challenge

Nearly half of Cumberland’s volunteer firefighters are over 50 years old.

Ireland said recruiting and retaining firefighters is now more difficult than in the past.

“It is difficult to find people who have the time and skills, especially challenging standards in firefighting are ever-increasing and there are a lot of training requirements,” he said.

Fire stations and equipment are also aging.

The review calls for nearly $ 40 million over 20 years to replace six fire stations, several obsolete vehicles and firefighting equipment. Advocate, Johns, Barsboro, River Hebert, Wentworth and Westchester fire stations are recommended to be replaced within the first 10 years.

“Our fire brigade is aging,” Ruston said. “Our oldest is a 1989 fire truck and it is in very rough shape.”

Aging Fire Navy

There are 92 fire trucks in the municipality. The average age of vehicles is approximately 19. The oldest vehicle in service is the 54 year old Wildland truck.

The National Fire Protection Association has set a maximum service age of 15 for front-line service fire trucks, but there is a process to extend life to 25 years in low-accident areas such as Cumberland.

“Perhaps the municipality has no definite plan to replace or maintain vehicles in the past,” Ireland said. “Therefore, some in our Navy are nearing the end of its service life.”

The council has instructed staff to review more than 200 recommendations in the report and present a plan for implementation later this summer.