Fire Chief addresses concerns over fire safety in Kelowna

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Travis Whiting, Kelowna Fire Department Chief, has written a letter addressing concerns from the public over fire safety in the city. Below is the letter in full.

"City staff and the Kelowna Fire Department have had a number of questions asked around general fire safety in our growing city, including staffing levels and standards. These are valid questions and show the value placed by our residents on our first responders and the work they do every day to keep us safe.

As our city grows, the City’s infrastructure needs to keep pace. This includes public safety and, with that, the Kelowna Fire Department. The Fire Department responds to multiple call types, and the role of our front-line responders is busier and more complex than ever before. This challenge of growth is recognized by the City and will continue to be considered on how we work to ensure public safety, and to ensure we keep firefighter safety a key priority.

What may not be clear is the investment made over the past four years to grow our staffing and to ensure they have the equipment and training to safely and effectively do their jobs. One example is the growth in our Suppression Branch, made up of our front-line firefighters. In 2018, we had 96 personnel in Suppression. Today we have 120. This increase allowed us to station a new full time Engine crew of four personnel in Glenmore, providing support to the northern end of our community. 

The City has also supported increases in staffing to our other key areas, Prevention and Fire Dispatch. Our Fire Dispatch staff provide a critical link between residents and first responders. Our Prevention staff not only undertake fire inspections to ensure fire safety is maintained, they also review new developments to ensure Fire Code and other applicable codes are maintained for public and responder safety.

Along with staffing, the City continues to invest capital dollars to ensure our equipment is up to date and regularly renewed.  

In 2016, Kelowna Fire Department presented its 2016-2030 Strategic Plan to guide us into the future. This year, we are reviewing and updating the plan to reflect the pace of growth Kelowna has seen and how the Fire Department can keep pace. This update is expected by the end of the year, and will provide guidance as we move forward.

Challenges arise when a community grows at the pace we are experiencing. We will continue to work on resourcing, training and equipping our front-line responders consistent with that growth. In the 2022 Financial Plan, the start of a long term staffing and capital plan investment was implemented. Our recommendations in investing these funds will be based on many factors including rate of growth, population and building density, and comparative reviews of like-sized communities. 

We also ask residents to do their part. Maintain smoke and CO alarms and be sure to have a fire safety plan for you home. Also, with summer upon us and high temperatures, we also remind everyone that open burning and campfires are prohibited within the City of Kelowna."

More information on the Fire Department and fire safety tips can be found at Fire Department | City of Kelowna