Thursday, November 26, 2020 - 1:00 PM

Fast Facts on the Budget and Fire Services

St. John's Regional Fire Department Crest
The City of St. John's would like to clarify what it is considering as part of Budget 2021 related to our fire services.

To be absolutely clear, the City has no intention to reduce the number of firefighters on shift at St. John’s Regional Fire Department (SJRFD).

We are currently scheduled for 44 firefighters a day and that will not change.
The issue we plan to address has to do with overtime costs - averaging $1.2M and rising. 
  • Over the past four years, the overtime budget has doubled at SJRFD. 
  • Overtime is a cost of doing business, especially in an emergency service, and we expect to have a certain amount of overtime each year. 
  • During summers and Christmas when we have annual leave/holiday blocks, we always bring on temporary firefighters to make up those on leave. We will continue to do this in 2021.
 
For 2021, our plan is to only call in replacement staff (or backfill) when staff numbers drop below 37 - not the current 39. 
 
To manage staff shortfalls, SJRFD will “brown out” or hold back one of our ladder trucks when we have less than 38 staff in on any given day. This option will allow them to keep the truck operational when there are enough people at work and to save on overtime when there aren’t. Both options will avoid placing more of a burden on taxpayers, given the increase in overtime that the Region has had to pay out and the financial challenges we face.
 
Combined, ladders trucks are mobilized an average of 5 times a week; they are both in use at the same time approximately 8 times a year. Each truck averages 140 responses annually, or 280 times combined.
 
The department will have contingencies in place for times when the second truck is needed as part of its operational policies.
 
Our regional fire service will continue to provide safe coverage to the residents and communities we serve. They provide an excellent service to the residents of our region and we want them to continue to do this. 
 
We need our firefighters on shift; we will work with our union and members to address issues that may be causing the rise in overtime. In fact, when management met with the union on Tuesday to explain this decision, they asked for union support to address the spike in overtime costs and to consider other opportunities to achieve savings. 
 
We want a healthy and strong firefighting force and are more than willing to work with the union and our firefighters to address this issue.