A detailed Fire Master Plan recommends combining the Mount Brydges and Melbourne firehalls in one new building located between the communities on Glendon Drive was given the green light by council to start the building location review.
It is a long-term vision meant to take shape in seven to 10 years, and would require Southwest Middlesex to cover a larger portion of its own township since Melbourne’s station currently covers a large portion west of County Road 9, according to Fire Chief Brent Smith’s report.
Depending on the outcome of the location study regarding combining the two halls, the plan has Station Two in Mount Brydges getting $300,000-$500,000 in upgrades within three to five years.
In the near term, Strathroy is set to get a new station budgeted in the next one to three years at a cost of $6-million to $8-million. The plan calls for some funding to start being dedicated in the 2022 budget, with the new station at either its current location or north of the police station.
“Conservatively you could expect to see a new Station One operation-wise in about five years time, or less, ideally,” CAO Fred Tranquilli told council at its 15 November 2021 meeting.
The fire master plan has been worked on since January. Chief Smith’s report read that all senior fire staff have offered their support for the findings.
More staffing for the fire department will be another new expense if the plan moves ahead. It has the Deputy Chief & Training Officer position moving to full-time and a new full-time Fire Prevention Officer being hired in one to three years.
Coun. Larry Cowan asked the chief how close the township was to needing the new full-time firefighters.
“I would suggest that we’re already there now. Certainly with the expansion and the growth of the municipality, we’re very thin at daytime hours. And being able to put enough firefighters on the ground at a significant incident I would say between the hours of 7am and 5pm we’re probably fortunate to be able to do it, but not in the timely fashion that we probably should be,” responded Chief Smith.
He said between January and October of this year, the fire department responded to 929 events. “So we’re asking an awful lot of a purely volunteer component,” said Smith. An audit report earlier in the council meeting showed large surpluses in municipal reserves, something Coun. Steve Pelkman brought up as relevant to the fire master plan discussion.
“The fact that some people may say we have a surplus and maybe we’re drawing too much tax money here or this is why because these changes are coming very, very soon and what we really want to have is a stable tax rate so that when we make those changes we don’t see a drastic change in people’s property taxes,” said Pelkman.
With a long-term plan come long-term questions on any future amalgamations forced by the Province from Coun. John Brennan. He asked what would happen in the hypothetical that Adelaide Metcalfe joined Strathroy-Caradoc, which already helps its neighbour with a fire service agreement.
“So in case that were to happen, certainly we would pause for a moment while we continued to ensure that the community has very good fire protection and fire suppression,” answer Chief Smith, who said it would take a year or two to plan redeployment.
The chief hopes recruitment will raise the number of firefighters at the Strathroy station from 24 to 36 in the next couple of years. A rescue truck and tanker are also set to soon be replaced at a cost of up to $1.1-million.
Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner