Aldergrove Fire Hall No. 3 is the most under-staffed of the “career” halls in the Township of Langley, according to figures released by the fire department.
A report to Township council from Fire Chief Stephen Gamble shows every one of the four halls with full-time firefighters will be under the minimum requirement of four-person crews at different times this year, but the Aldergrove hall at 26316 30A Avenue will be under most often.
From Aug. 4 until Aug. 19, every one of the four shifts in Aldergrove will be operating with three-person crews, below the four-person minimum considered to be industry standard.
In July, one of the four shifts will run with three people for the entire month.
Full-time Langley Township firefighters work two 10-hour day shifts, followed by two 14-hour night shifts, then they get four days off.
The Jan. 15 report by the chief notes that the projected staffing levels are based on expected vacations, and do not include estimates of the possible impact of sickness or injury on staffing levels.
The report was prepared at the request by council after chief Gamble told a Dec. 9 meeting that the Township of Langley fire department doesn’t have enough firefighters to meet industry standards.
Gamble was responding to a question from Councillor Kim Richter.
“We run fairly lean compared to some of the other fire departments in the GVRD [Metro Vancouver]” Gamble said.
The department has an average of 18 firefighters working per shift when the generally accepted minimum is 20.
As a result, about 20 per cent of the time, Langley fire trucks are operating with three- instead of four-person crews, Gamble said.
It does not mean increased risk to the firefighters, but 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.
A three-person crew doesn’t.
That means going into “defensive mode” and waiting for more firefighters to arrive before going in, Gamble said.
Gamble said he would recommend a minimum of 20 firefighters per shift.
Gamble has been asked to provide a further breakdown of the shift schedule numbers for a future meeting of council.