City of Kitchener committee backs plan to hire 20 new firefighters, build 8th station

A City of Kitchener council committee is backing a plan to hire 20 more firefighters and build a new fire station in the city by 2026.

On Monday, the Community and Infrastructure Services Committee agreed with administration’s recommendation to move forward with the plan.

Bob Gilmore, the Chief of the Kitchener Fire Department, is happy the committee is standing by the proposal, which he says is needed to serve the city's core.

"Upon council ratification, we will get a consultant involved to find the exact location of the eighth station but it'll be somewhere in and around the downtown," he said.

The cost of bringing on the 20 firefighters is pegged at more than $2.6 million over four years. According to Gilmore, the cost to build the station could be between $5 million to $6 million, plus land costs.

Gilmore said both are needed to keep up with a growing city, with emergency calls up 58 per cent from 2011 to 2019.

The number of six-storey residential buildings is also increasing, as is population growth, but the number of firefighters in the city has declined.

"We would send 15 firefighters to your typical house fire. For a high-rise, we require 24 firefighters on scene. So, to get our 24 firefighters on scene in our response time, that's why we need the extra staff and the extra station," Gilmore explained.

Response times are also a concern.

On average between 2016 and 2019, Kitchener Fire took longer to get to medical or fire rescue calls than the industry standard almost half the time.

"What we want to do is make sure that standard is being met across the city, but also that we have the level of service that's necessary, particularly as we see more buildings that are going up instead of out into suburbia," Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said.

Should council approve the plan, Gilmore expects construction of the new fire station to begin in 2025.