« We have, definitely, a well thought-out direction of where we want to go, » said Mayor François St-Amour.
The municipality hired TDC Group to do a review of The Nation’s existing fire protection service setup and provide recommendations for changes and improvements to meet the future needs of the community. Consultant Ted Darby presented the final 25-page summary report during a recent session of council.
« The heart of the fire master plan, » said Darby, « is the community risk assessment. »
Darby told council that The Nation’s fire master plan must include an outline of all the types of emergency situations that the municipality’s fire fighters may encounter during a call. His report included a summary of the various incidents that local fire fighters have had to handle. The most frequent kind of call concerns a house fire but fire fighters have also responded to motor vehicle accidents that range from minor in nature to serious, including situations where special equipment was needed to free people trapped inside crushed vehicles. Local fire fighters have helped during flood situations and dealt with emergency situations like tanker truck spills and downed power poles during ice storms.
« Your department isn’t just about dealing with fires, » Darby said. « When someone calls 911, it could be anything and everything. »
The report also reviewed population growth for The Nation during a ten-year period from 1996 to 2016. The number of residents in the community has increased from 10,478 in 1996 to 12,808 as recorded in the 2016 census. That amounts to more than 20 per cent. Based on that information, TDC Group speculates that The Nation’s population could increase by another 16 per cent to almost 15,000 residents by 2036.
From year to year, the number of emergency calls that The Nation fire department has handled averaged between 200 to 220, with most of them being fire calls of various types, but with vehicle accidents coming in a close second, followed by medical incidents where fire fighters have had to deal with someone suffering a heart attack or needing immediate transport to a doctor or clinic. Over the next decade or two the average number of calls to the fire department should increase as the population increases.
The report urges more attention to community awareness programs on fire safety and emergency preparation for residents.
« Let’s prevent a fire from happening, » said Darby. « That’s the biggest bang for the buck. »
The consultant firm also reviewed the age and condition of the five existing fire stations in The Nation. One of the recommendations in the report is to reduce the number of stations to four but to relocate at least one station to a more centralized location to better serve the community. The report does not suggest any reduction in the number of fire fighters serving The Nation but it does recommend that council and administratin start budget planning for upgrading a couple of existing stations and for building at least one new station.