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CAFC census finds fire and emergency services face a precarious future

December 5, 2022  By FFIC Staff


Dec. 5, 2022, Ottawa A new survey released by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) details the realities Canada’s 3,200 fire departments are facing. Diminishing numbers of career and volunteer firefighters, increased emergency call volumes, mounting training and equipment costs and the reclassification of firefighting into the top tier of carcinogenic professions are  challenging Canada’s fire, all-hazard and emergency response capacity.

Survey highlights

  • Diminishing numbers : In 2016, there were a reported 156,000 firefighters; in 2022 this number fell to 126,000 (of this, 90,000 are volunteers).
  • Increasing call volumes : Of the 2 million calls responded to over a 12-month period: 50 per cent were for medical emergency, 30 per cent for all-hazard response, 10 per cent for climate emergencies, and only 10 per cent for fire suppression.
  • Aging equipment and rising costs : 41 per cent of Canada’s fire departments have had to defer training and new equipment for more than two years, due to fiscal pressures.
  • High reliance on volunteers : Of the $5.6 billion in fire department expenditures, only 15 per cent is attributed to the more than 2,000 fire departments that are volunteer (located mainly in rural areas).
  • Risks of death and injury : Over a 12-month period, 629 fire departments reported: two active line of duty deaths, 57 deaths due to illness associated with the profession, seven suicides. In addition, there were also 600 profession-related injuries

Call to Action

The CAFC will impress upon the Federal Government recommendations in three key areas: protecting and retaining Canada’s supply of firefighters and response capacity, reducing community risk and improving the government’s ability to address these problems. Short and long-term solutions are required to address these challenges and keep communities safe. Among their calls for action:

  • Reinstate the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program’s to buy 600 new fire trucks, refurbish 800 fire stations (required to house the trucks and provide separate quarters for female fire fighters) and modernize 600 communication systems
  • Increase the volunteer firefighter tax credit from $3,000 to $10,000 to help retain volunteer firefighters that are so integral to rural communities
  • Support Bill C-224 to develop a firefighter cancer framework and maintain federal commitments to first responder mental health. 
  • Consider formalizing the role of fire departments in the health system 
  • Ensure supply of affordable housing is sprinkled; ban the sale and use of consumer fireworks
  • Ensure that consideration is given to the recommendations of the National Indigenous Fire Safety Council

With  35 fire chiefs representing provincial, territorial and national affiliate organizations  gathering in Ottawa next week to meet with government officials, they will collectively be calling for action to alleviate the precarious conditions the firefighting community is facing in this country.

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