Concerned residents of Highland Grove questioned the Highlands East Fire Committee over fears about the future of their community fire hall.
The committee answered a series of questions from a resident delegation during its May 13 meeting.
The delegation spoke to their concern the municipality could decide to close the Station 2 fire hall in Highland Grove as part of a service delivery review.
A group of 10 people sat in on the meeting. Resident Angela Lewis said attending and asking questions sent a message.
“Us being here, fighting for this, whether it happens or doesn’t, shows how important it is to us,” she told the committee.
Residents spoke about the 2010 Peter Corfield and Associates Master Fire Plan Report, which recommended closing and merging fire halls to save costs, including Station 2.
Although the reports recommendations were not all acted on, it resurfaced at the fire committee’s first meeting March 11.
Previous fire chief Bill Wingrove also brought up the report in December 2016 and spoke to council in support of its recommendations.
Council has tasked the committee with completing a fire service delivery review. But Mayor Dave Burton said he did not understand what the residents are fighting about, given the committee has not yet brought forward any recommendation.
“This isn’t a committee to go closing fire halls,” Burton said. “I’ll stand here as mayor and say that … we’re here trying to make a good service better.”
He added his own concerns about the need to improve fire services and how a possible amalgamation at the county level might impact them.
“You might have one fire hall in Highlands East if you amalgamate,” Burton said. “If we don’t do something, I guarantee the province will come in and do it.”
Station 1 fire chief Wayne Galloway said the Corfield report was brought forward as background information, as many fire service members never saw it.
“It was never intended to be used to make a decision,” he said. “Everybody here at the table will agree there’s information there (in the report) that was lacking.”
Acting fire chief Chris Baughman said he does not want to reduce the level of service to save money. L
ewis said she did not feel her discussion with the committee accomplished anything.
“We’ll just keep fighting,” Lewis said. “We made our point, we’ll just keep going.”
Committee discusses vehicle cuts
The committee also discussed how to start working toward a service delivery review.
“What’s driving the need for this?” Station 4 fire chief Brian Woods asked. “Is it we can’t afford the status quo?”
Baughman said past studies have suggested that and the municipality is doing the review to find out for sure.
Chair Cam McKenzie said the review would be a lengthy process. But he suggested one of the things worth exploring was whether the municipality needs three emergency vehicles at each of its five fire halls.
“The major budget of a fire department is buying trucks,” McKenzie said. “Maybe we’re over-equipped to carry on the same service and we could do it with less vehicles.”
Baughman later said he is also compiling updated statistics on fire calls at each station.