Nearly one in 10 Toronto fire trucks sit idle on daily basis due to staffing shortages: union
Published Monday, October 26, 2020 11:39AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 26, 2020 5:42PM EDT
Nearly one in 10 fire trucks in the City of Toronto sit idle on a daily basis due to staffing shortages, a new report commissioned by the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association suggests.
The report conducted by the firm Eckler found that on any given day approximately 14 of the city’s 142 fire trucks are out of commission because there is insufficient staff available to “safely put them into active service.”
The report says that as of the end of September, there were 75 firefighter vacancies in Toronto, many of them due to retiring members who have not been immediately replaced.
This is despite the existence of a policy requiring that Toronto Fire Services hire new members whenever staffing drops 40 members below the approved complement of 2,691 firefighters.
“The issue with actually replacing firefighters is that they wait until we have 40 retirements so by the time they actually start to process and get them into class we are usually about 60 short and by the time they graduate four months later we are usually about 70 short. A class is about 48 firefighters so we are constantly behind even when they hire,” Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association President Frank Ramagnano told CP24 on Monday afternoon.
Ramagnano said that there has been an increase in absences within Toronto Fire Service and the overall staffing levels have made it impossible for the department to “absorb” those without leaving trucks idle.
He said that one of the immediate solutions could be switching to hiring each year based on projected need rather than scrambling to bring in new recruits after members retire.
He said that there is also a need to plan for the future, however.
The report, for example, points out that once a new policy comes into effect in 2021 requiring four personnel on some vehicles instead of three there will be a need for 252 additional firefighters.
“The city come February is going to be making some tough decision when it comes to the budget and we just want to make sure that they don’t do it based on what they think we can do on paper but what we are actually doing in reality,” Ramagnano said.
Speaking with reporters during an unrelated news conference earlier in the day, Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said that he wasn’t “necessarily surprised” by any of the findings from the report but he said that he was disturbed by a rise in absences, many of which are a result of post-traumatic stress and other occupational stress injuries.