By Maria Church
June 26, 2015 – Ottawa has approved funding for a pilot project that will, for the first time, collect national fire statistics.
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners are the project leads, and will work with Statistics Canada to build a national, standardized reporting system for fire data.
Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) – an agency of the Department of National Defence – is funding the $850,000 project, along with Public Safety Canada. Other partners, including the CAFC and the fire marshals, are contributing $150,000 in resources, cash and in kind.
Statistics Canada will build the database in the first year of the three-year project. Over the next two years, researchers will test drive the data to understand its applications, and cross-reference it with existing demographic statistics.
“The information that we’re going to be obtaining is the first time that we are going to have fire-specific data – a national fire database that’s never existed before,” CAFC president Paul Boissonneault said in an interview from Halifax, where the project was announced Friday as part of $12 million in projects through DRDC.
Details on what data will be collected will be determined through a working group, Boissonneault said, led by the CAFC and the fire marshals, along with with national and provincial stakeholders.
“I think we should celebrate the fact that we are all at the table wanting to do this,” Boissonneault said. “It is very significant and should improve how we provide information.”
Surrey, B.C., Fire Chief Len Garis, who was a lead with the CAFC on the project proposal, said for chiefs and chief officers, a national database means having concrete evidence to make decisions and support requests from municipalities.
“Certainly it will paint a different picture of what our issues and challenges our in terms of protecting Canadians,” Garis said in an interview Friday.
Departments, ideally, he said, will use the database to adapt quickly and methodically to changes in population and risks, and predict future trends.
“There are risky places and risky people at the end of the day,” Garis said, “and those are the people we need to concentrate on if we want to make it safe for Canadians.”
The pilot project, pending final negotiations and contract signing, should be up and running in the fall.
The other projects announced Friday are models to be developed by Natural Resources Canada to better predict the occurrence and duration of wildfires, a study in Alberta that will compare results of blood-testing devices used in the community to those in hosptials, development of a strategies to improve volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention, and research to better understand health and wellness indicators to help paramedics inform operational and staffing decisions.