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Moncton Fire emergency call response continues to rise

By Tara Clow Jan 16, 2024 | 2:24 PM

The Moncton Fire Department responded to a record number of emergency calls in 2023.

In the last twelve months, firefighters from the five city stations completed 13,613 unit responses to 7,785 emergency calls. That’s a 17 percent increase from 2022, which was also a record-breaking year.

Among those emergencies were 1097 Alarms, 223 Structural Fires, 958 Non-Structural Fires, and 739 Motor Vehicle Collisions, many medical assistance requests, gas leaks, Hazardous Materials, off-road and water rescues, and emergency public service calls.

Captain Ashley Graham, is also the President of the Moncton Firefighters Association. He says the concern is, that the calls are rising, but staffing is not.

“In 2013, we had 4699 calls, so in ten years, our calls have gone up 40 percent. But staffing levels haven’t changed since 1976. So we have the same amount of firefighters as we did them but they’re doing a lot more work,” Graham says.

Currently, there are around 113 firefighters with the Moncton Fire Department. A company completed a survey last year, looking at the stations and the apparatus they have and how many firefighters are on staff, and compared that with the risk within the city for emergency calls.

“They’re recommending, over the next ten years that we’re going to have to add another ladder truck and that would take a minimum of 16 firefighters to staff on a full-time basis, and then another engine with another 16 firefighters,” Graham told us. “Add the non-operational staff of four, so that’s for our Fire Prevention Division and their training, and that’s an increase of over 32 firefighters, and frontline firefighters that are needed just to keep up and keep our citizens safe.”

Graham adds that these numbers come as no surprise because of the amount of growth in the City of Moncton.

“We have over 55 high-rise buildings in Moncton. There’s a lot more people and a lot more density in the city. We’re all about growth, but also the safety of the citizens and the safety of the firefighters is what we’re looking out for, so we’re going to have to increase the staffing of the fire department,” Graham says.

Since the 1990s, the Moncton Fire Department has also increased the scope of what it does every day.

“We’ve brought in the medical first responders, so they attend certain serious medical calls to assist the ambulance. We now have a provincial HAZMAT team. We also do water rescue, ice water rescue, and swift water rescue. We have a high-angle rescue, which we just started last year, and how we would help someone with a medical condition on a crane. We have lots of cranes in our city right now.”

Graham adds they also have trench rescue and confined space rescue, which are specializations. He says they are taking a lot of courses to better serve the population.

“What we’re finding when we respond to these calls, is we do not have the manpower to do it properly and safely sometimes. If we look at the high-rise buildings that we have now if there is a high-rise fire, then it would take all of our five stations to respond to that one call,” Graham says. ” But if you go by certain standards, you would need almost double that amount of firefighters to fight those fires.”

He feels it is time for more investment in public safety.

“We need to have safe numbers to protect ourselves and the citizens. We are the fastest-growing city in the country right now. I think they’ve gone from 5 or 6 by-law officers to over 20 in the last two years, but on the fire side they need to have some planning in place for increases,” Graham stated.