Clarington wants to build new fire station, hire more full-time firefighters (while phasing out volunteer program)


Published June 20, 2023 at 12:54 pm

Clarington wants to phase out volunteer firefighters – at least in Bowmanville and Courtice – build a new station in north Bowmanville and hire more full-time positions to meet the demands of a rapidly growing population.

Clarington is in the top 30 in population in Ontario but is one of just eight communities with more than 100,000 residents to use a composite fire service, made up of a combination of full-time and volunteer firefighters.

Clarington CAO Mary-Anne Dempster said the municipality’s fire service has “struggled” for several years to hire and retain volunteer firefighters, a common problem for composite forces across the province, and one that “has been felt most notably at our Bowmanville, Courtice, and Enniskillen stations.”

The issue prompted staff to prepare a report on how to deal with the issue, which has been exacerbated by Clarington’s explosive population growth in recent years.

The recommendations, which were considered at Monday’s Joint Committee meeting and moved to the June 26 Council meeting for a decision, will “help to ensure we continue to provide our services in an efficient way,” Dempster said, and “meet the high standard of safety our residents expect and deserve.

Proposed enhancements include:

  • Phase-out the volunteer program in the larger urban centres of Bowmanville and Courtice – both experiencing significant population growth – by January 2026 and September 2027, respectively
  • Create new full-time positions, with at least 50 per cent hired from current volunteers
  • Enhance the use of the Enniskillen station by partnering with Region of Durham Paramedic Services for co-use
  • Consider building a new station in north Bowmanville

“It is important to note that these efforts are focused on enhancing our services and that no stations are proposed to close,” Dempster added. “These suggested changes would allow us to address the rising demands for emergency services in Courtice and Bowmanville, while maintaining the volunteer firefighter program in Enniskillen and Orono, as well as the composite program in Newcastle.”

Dempster said the municipality remains “steadfast” in its mission to protect and serve residents. “By strengthening our full-time fire crews and implementing a program to support our volunteer firefighters, we are proposing proactive measures to adapt to the evolving needs of our growing community.”

Clarington has five fire stations and while the majority of the urban centers in Clarington can be reached within an internationally recognized travel time best practice of four minutes (for an initial crew of four) to arrive on a fire scene 90 per cent of the time, there are several response gaps, particularly in Bowmanville, where more than half of the community is outside of the travel time threshold.

As well, the best practice of eight minutes for fifteen firefighters to arrive on scene 90 per cent of the time is often unattainable for Clarington firefighters, especially in rural areas without fire hydrants and during times when the crews are short-staffed because of vacation time, sick time, WSIB, parental leaves, etc.

Clarington Fire would like to hire 20 full-time firefighters to staff an existing fire truck to respond to emergency calls from renovated Fire Station 1 in Bowmanville with a hire date of September 2025 and hire another 20 full-time firefighters to staff Fire Station 4 in Courtice with a hire date of September 2027.

Should Council approve the construction of a new Fire Station in conjunction with the Operations Depot on Concession Road 4 in Bowmanville, the new fulltime firefighters will respond from the new fire station.

“We deeply appreciate the commitment and dedication of our volunteer firefighters,” Dempster said. “Together, we will ensure that Clarington continues to be a safe and secure community.”

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