Suburbs Stripping the City of Fire Service Resources

With Fire Service delivery levels worse than the provincial average, Hamilton is redistributing scarce fire fighting resources from the old city to sparser suburban communities.

By Greg Galante
Published August 14, 2012

On January 11, 2011 my home suffered a devastating fire while I was in Toronto at work. (The irony of this has not been lost on me as a professional firefighter).

The Hamilton Fire Department responded and did what I consider to be in my professional opinion an outstanding job of preventing the total loss of my home. The first in responding units were from Station 6 at Wentworth and Barton Streets about 4 blocks from my home. Station 6 is one of the busiest fire stations in Hamilton.

At that time, the station complement was Pumper 6 and Rescue 6: two trucks, usually staffed with seven or eight personnel. There is no question in my mind that my home was saved because these two apparatus were able to respond rapidly with enough staff to initiate operations without delay.

Fast forward to April 2012. I had been doing some contracting work in the neighborhood around the fire hall and began noticing that Rescue 6 was never present in the Station.

My curiosity being piqued, I made a point of stopping in to find out where it was. I was told that as of January 2012, Rescue 6 became Rescue 12 and was relocated to Station 12 in Stoney Creek on Hwy 8 near Gray's Rd.

Ward 3 Rescue Truck Relocated to Ward 10

Upon hearing this, I became very interested in understanding the rationale behind this move. I emailed my city councillor, Bernie Morelli, who immediately replied and had been unaware of the apparatus move.

Morelli forwarded my enquiry to Chief Rob Simonds, Hamilton's relatively new Fire Chief, who came from Saint John, New Brunswick. My enquiry included a request for a breakdown of call volume, types of calls and so on that each of these stations runs and how moving Rescue 6 to Stoney Creek could be justified.

Chief Simonds emailed me and explained that the relocation of Rescue 6 involved several factors, one of which was to better distribute Hamilton Fire's 3 Heavy Rescues across the city.

Great! Operationally this makes perfect sense. However, it did not explain not replacing Rescue 6 with another apparatus.

The second part of this explanation, however, begins to get vague and disturbingly full of administrative double-talk. Chief Simonds spoke of the need to cover some "operational gaps" in the coverage across the city and that by moving Rescue 6 to Station 12 this was alleviating some of these gaps.

In addition, the chief stated that Ward 3 is still adequately covered because the stations to the east and west have multiple apparatus. My Bovine Scatology detector was now in full alarm mode. So I did some more research.

Hamilton Worse than Average in Service Delivery

In 2010, The Ontario Municipal CAO's Association did a Service Delivery Benchmarking Study [PDF] that covered all areas of municipal service delivery.

Hamilton Fire finished above the median in most of the categories (lower is better). What this means is that Hamilton Fire is having difficulty meeting recognized standards in areas of response time, property loss, fire deaths, staffing, and so on.

Moving Rescue 6 to Station 12 is not going to help improve any of these statistics. A breakdown of Ward 3 and Ward 10 statistically causes one to scratch their head even more.

Ward 3 (Station 6) 10 (Stations 12, 15, 16)
Population 39,910 24,975
Area (Acres) 3570 3053
Dwellings 16,725 8585
Fire Apparatus 1 6

In addition, Ward 3 contains Hamilton General Hospital, which also has a helicopter landing platform on the roof. The Hamilton Rehabilitation Center, numerous high rise and high density low rise residential buildings. A port facility, heavy industrial sites along Burlington Street, numerous nursing homes, a high school, several elementary schools.

The brief analysis above also does not take into account that the age of the building stock in Ward 3 is decades older than Ward 10.

Many of the structures in Ward 3 are well over 100 years old. They frequently are built using wood frame balloon type construction, row housing with common attic space. Building proximity is also much closer as you can see: over 16,000 buildings in almost the same area of space as Ward 10 with 8,500 plus dwellings.

The socio-economic make up of Ward 3 is also incredibly diverse, with a large portion of its population disadvantaged and in need of emergency services on a more frequent basis than a relatively affluent suburban area.

The deadly 1997 Plastimet fire also happened in Ward 3.

Fire Service Delivery on the Cheap

Some light began to be shed on this issue over the course of this summer with several articles in the Hamilton Spectator highlighting Hamilton Fire Service's problem in getting its part-time fire fighters to respond to their pagers.

This is because the Hamilton Professional Firefighters local is cracking down on so-called "two hatters", or members that work as full-time firefighters in another municipality while "volunteering" or working part-time here. The union is doing this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, they want to protect the safety of their members and the community and the communities where the two hatters may work full-time (I would refer readers to Scott Marks' letter the editor of the Spec on July 9).

Secondly, they want to force municipalities to avoid trying to do Fire Service Delivery on the cheap, which is now clearly happening in Hamilton. The "operational gaps" Chief Simonds is referencing are because Hamilton Fire does not have enough firefighters to provide the required level of fire service delivery to a city of over 500,000 people.

We do not have "volunteer" or part-time police in Hamilton. There is a police auxiliary, but they do not respond to emergency calls and are not armed.

Hamilton's part-time firefighters are expected to perform every duty a full-time firefighter does. The benefit to the city is they don't have to pay benefits, salary, and so on commensurate with the job.

At first glance, this seems like a deal for the taxpayer. What it is really doing is playing Russian Roulette with the lives of citizens and their property, as well as the lives of Hamilton's Firefighters.

At the time of writing, Chief Simonds has stopped responding to my emails.

Greg Galante is 46 years old, a life long Hamilton resident, and business owner. He is also a 22-year member of the Toronto Fire Service and holds the rank of Acting Captain.


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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 09:32:16

Great bit of digging, Greg. I guess you won't be able to answer if Chief Simonds has put his computer on ice, but does the proximity of the fire station on John N. have anything to do with the whacked distribution numbers you cite? Having 6 apparatuses in Ward 10 versus 1 in one far denser ward is definitely something I can't wrap my head around either.

Has Bernie been helpful in getting answers?

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 13:05:09 in reply to Comment 79740

Fire station 1, on John st. has also lost a fire truck and 4 firefighters before station 6(Barton & Wentworth) lost rescue 6 to Stoney Creek.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 15:36:44 in reply to Comment 79762

When did that happen, and who made that decision? Does Jason Farr know about it?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 09:56:18

Four of the 6 apparatus in Ward 10 are manned by "volunteers". So they are not staffed full time, and this is the rationale for moving the resscue to Station 12. However this is also a big concern. To have 4 apparatus worth around 2 million dollars sitting around doing nothing much of the time because "volunteers" are not showing up when they are paged or not showing up in enough numbers to effectively manage an emergency scene SHOULD BE telling the administration they need to HIRE enough personnel to man these apparatus. The chief used the proximity of John St and Kenilworth Ave Stations with multiple apparatus as a reason why they could move Rescue 6 and still cover Ward 3. Sounds reasonable to a lay person.....but fire service delivery doesn't work that way. There is a formula that has been used for decades to determine apparatus requirements in a particular area. For decades before Chief Simonds got here Station 6 had multiple apparatus. At varying times a pumper and aerial, sometimes two pumpers, at others two trucks and a District Chiefs car. The main factors that would dictate two trucks at Station 6 (at least) have not changed. Call volume has certainly not decreased, take into account the eventuality of densification and it will only increase. My hunch is the new Chief and his staff identified that they had a problem in the Creek with staffing of the part timers and to take up the slack decided to pull a truck from the inner city. Why they chose a truck from Station 6 is the question I have been unable to get an answer that makes sense to. Actually there is no answer that makes sense. To my mind the Fire Chief should be going before council and making his case for more hiring. In my opinion this city is running at least 5 apparatus short and this is only going to increase, (Have you seen the housing and commercial development going in on the mountain?),which would add up to around 100 firefighters to cover all 4 shifts. This trend isn't only going on in Hamilton. City managers have tended to hire administrative types who have Public Administration or MBAs or governance degrees to fill senior emergency service posts in the last 10 years. They've gotten this idea in their head that you can run an emergency service like a business and do more with less. YOU CAN'T. An old school guy like myself and those with more time at the sharp end than me know this and most likely would tell the city manager to go pound salt if he was instructed to do more with less. But if you can make a sexy spread sheet that shows you can ?

Oh and as for your question about Bernie Morelli? Bernie was prompt in getting back to me, was unaware of the apparatus move, was concerned and as far as I know has done what he can. I was suprised to find that an issue like this would not have been brought up at council.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2012-08-14 09:58:39

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By theOther (registered) | Posted August 19, 2012 at 20:02:25 in reply to Comment 79744

Within the boundaries of my personal experience(which includes its original location on Sanford Avenue), Stn. 6 has never housed a District Chief. There was a rapid response (Chevy Suburban)unit there for some years, but it was relocated to Stn 11 in the early/mid- 90's, I believe. If you decried the relocation of a unit from Ward 3 to Ward 2 at that time, I guess I must have missed it. For the record, Stoney Creek/Winona are not suburbs of the City of Hamilton. They are (now) the City of Hamilton. As a lifelong east-ender, I empathize with your reaction to this change. Yup, our career resources are being spread considerably more thinly relative to our previous history. The Creek didn't ask to be amalgamated, and neither (to my knowledge) did the Hamilton Fire Dept. Looks like Hamilton is not immune to developments in the rest of the western world. Perhaps Toronto Fire is, I wouldn't know. I could speculate based on information provided by my buddies and acquaintances there, but that would not be fair. Although we might agree that TFD survived amalgamation somewhat more comfortably than did HFD. You seem to want to have Chief Simonds' remarks both ways: "Operational gaps" is acceptable terminology when it refers to a balance of specialized resources, but administrative-ese when you don't get the answers you require. Further to this, your implication that the appointment of "relatively new" Rob Simonds (which dates back about a year and a half now) represents a trend to hire "administrative types" over those rising up through the ranks is absolutely absent of merit. Spend five minutes speaking personally with Mr. Simonds and you know that he grew up on our side of the wall. Damn shame we didn't have a line of succession in place, but I would refer you to Simonds' predecessors, especially the last two Fire Chiefs, to answer for that deficiency. Finally, nice of you to provide a link to Scott Marks' remarks on the so-called 'two-hatters'. What kind of hat do you wear while you are 'contracting'?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:13:16 in reply to Comment 79936

If you would like to argue semantics over the term suburb by all means go ahead. Whether any of the former municipalities asked to be almalgamated is irrelevant. The City of Hamilton and the administration of the Fire Department still have a responsibility to provide a proper fire service. That's not being done in my opinion, and yes previous administrations at HFD bear a degree of responsibility in that, but that doesn't give the current Chief a free pass.

I pursued proper channels when trying to obtain a detailed answer to a reasonable question as a tax payer. I got a muddled answer that would have satisfied a lay person which I'm not in this subject. When I pressed for more information I got the brush off. That tells me there are things the Fire Department administration and the city don't want people to know. That's bull shit.

With respect to Toronto Fire, we haven't faired particularly better than Hamilton. The only difference may be that we don't have the administrative and operational headache of having to deal with part timers showing up or not. Of the three emergency services in TO, Fire is the only one who has not added to its complement, despite consultants reports indicating there are as manys as 8 new fire stations needed. I personally work in a station where the exact same situation as Station 6 has just gone through is about to happen. The relocation of an apparatus from an area predominated by the lower socio/economic level to one of affluence. But the article I wrote was about Hamilton not Toronto.

It's Chief Simonds who seems to want to suck and blow at the same time, not me. (I'm sure he's a nice guy, I've been told by more than one person that he is a chief who supports firefighters, but that's irrelevant in this context.) The term operational gaps certainly would cover re-distributing the 3 heavy rescues. To try and use it to cover up the fact that staffing is inadequate and resources spread too thinly is misleading and disingenuous to the tax payers of this community.
Finally two hatting specifically refers to members working for two fire departments. If you know anything about the IAFF then you would know that. But I see as you have not had the integrity to supply a name with your post, it would seem that you just like to take pot shots at people when it suits you. My working for myself on the side has never interfered with my job as a firefighter, and my association has never threatened me or anyone else with pulling their union card for part timing that is not related to firefighting. Nor in my knowledge has the IAFF in general. But that fact would have gotten in the way of your insult wouldn't it?

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2012-08-23 10:33:15

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By theOther (registered) | Posted August 26, 2012 at 13:50:29 in reply to Comment 80018

One of the home truths in our business is that it almost never ends well when we hang the family laundry out in public. Would that I had not risen to your bait, but I did so I'll say my piece then check out. If you were personally insulted by my remark about your contracting, that's on you. The point is this: there are many sound premises from which to challenge the use of well-paid part-time workers, most with which I can agree. But when you boast about your private contracting gig while your union condemns two-hatters for potentially over-extending themselves, you've undercut your own argument. We are very effectively and well represented in Hamilton, but the hypocrisy of that argument is simply beneath us. Good on you and others for your enterprise and industry if that's what you want or need to do with your time, but keep it to yourself. Yeah, I know a little about the IAFF. They've been receiving a component of my dues for over thirty years. More importantly, I support unionism on a daily basis by voting with my feet in discretionary choices. I've also learned a little about the 'volunteer' sector, being compelled to interact with them for the past decade or so. How about you? And can we please dispense with this 'sucking and blowing' expression? The 1970's called, and they want their hackneyed rhetoric back. You will be aware that the legislation governing us (Fire Protection and Prevention Act 1997) doesn't even mandate that municipalities have a fire department. (Did I just hear A. Smith stirring in the attic?) Whatever its size and scope, the choice is left to the municipality, which here means City Council. So your argument, I'll suggest, is with your Councillor, whom you seem to have awarded a pass on this one. Everyone has a boss, including the Fire Chief. His is City Council. As to my lack of integrity: since I have registered with RTH, I'm not completely anonymous, and I don't need to justify that choice to anyone. My job is a privilege to do, and I try to enjoy and appreciate it. I also enjoy my right as a citizen to observe and comment on events in this City, and RTH is a wonderful arena for discussions like this (Thank you Ryan et al, sincerely). But I also operate in an environment where, for example, Councillors have in the past bullied, intimidated and generally menaced city staffers. One in particular springs to mind; perhaps you've made his acquaintance. I'm at a point in my career where I wouldn't have much to fear from that sort of conflict, but casual bystanders tend to get caught in the crossfire. People have enought to worry about without fallout over my personal crap. But if you have a need to vent at or chat with me personally, that could probably be arranged. Let me know. Other out.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 31, 2012 at 09:36:09 in reply to Comment 80080

I would challenge your assertion that this article is airing the dirty laundry of the fire department in public. Internal disciplinary issues, labour management issues, sure. The article I wrote is about decision the Fire Chief made that affects thousands of people/taxpayers in this community as well as the firefighters of that are bound to protect it. That's not dirty laundry. That is firmly in the domain of public policy and we have a right to question it, scrutinize it and challenge it.

You however seem to want to make this about me. Can you point to an instance where I "boasted" about my private business that I conduct on my own time, that has nothing to do with nor affects my chosen profession of firefighting? If you're a dues paying member of the IAFF then you will also know that in an effort to make life easier for members who volunteer in communities that really need their help, the International has amended it's by laws with respect to "two hatters". That is to say they only pursue instances where members "volunteer" work impacts an IAFF job and there is a complaint generated. This is clearly what is happening in Hamilton. I'm not sure why you would not be in support of any effort to bolster the complement of HFD and bring it up to acceptable standards.

If you want to cite the Fire Prevention and Protection Act then you also need to acknowledge best and past practices and the fact that the insurance industry in Ontario pretty much requires that municipalities maintain fire departments to adequate levels. Further they use actuarial , claims and loss data combined with NFPA data to build the models that those protection levels should be maintained at.

I haven't given a pass to anyone. I made inquiries of my city councillor, Mr Morelli responded with what information he could and forwarded it on to Chief Simonds. Further Bernie indicated to me that he was not aware of this change. Nothing I have been able to find out since would contradict this.

So it would seem that the Fire Chief, is not keeping his boss (Council) aprised of everything that is going on in his department, which is the point of the article. If you would like to extrapolate that means that Council...who works for US isn't getting the true picture of what is going on with the Fire Department. That's not acceptable. I don't work for the City of Hamilton and I am a taxpayer here. Further the issue in question directly affects me and my neighborhood. I have no intention of letting this issue lie.

Whether you like my cliche or not, if it fits it fits.  Here's another one.  You can't polish a turd.  This issue is a great big turd, and one the Chief can't make look shiny no matter how hard he tries.

It truly is a priveledge to serve the public, and I also love my job, which is another reason why this issue brings me to a boil. I also agree that RTH is a good place to keep up with what's going on in the city good or bad. I'm in the book and my website is linked here. In case you haven't figured it out I'm not afraid of a good argument. They are usually better over beer.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2012-08-31 09:40:09

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:17:42

I look forward to hearing more grousing from Hamilton's rural folks about how they pay so much taxes for so little service.

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By gullchasedship (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:39:24

Just out of curiosity, what's the average wage of city fire fighters when they retire?

At what age do they retire?

What percentage of their final salary is their pension?

What percentage of these pensions are funded currently?

What percentage should we consider unfunded liabilities that future generations of Hamiltonians will need to cover?

Or to summarize, can we afford full-time fire fighters?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 23, 2012 at 10:44:20 in reply to Comment 79751

Retirement in the OMERS pension plan is based on the 85 factor with years of service and age adding up to 85. Our normal unpenalized retirement age if you do not meet the 85 requirement is 65.

Pension is I believe 60% of salary averaged over the best 5 years and is taxable.

The OMERS plan is a 50/50 contributory plan employee/employer.

As I have noted in an earlier post up until the early 2000s the plan was in surplus but a very stupid legislative clause limited the amount the fund could be over surplus. This initiated a contribution freeze. When the market tanked in 2008 the fund went into liability. Subsequently the legislation was changed and contribution percentages have gone up to rebuild the fund.

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By LOL (registered) | Posted August 17, 2012 at 09:18:00 in reply to Comment 79751

Me thinks you have the question wrong. Should the question not be "How do we fund a necessary number of firefighters?"

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted August 17, 2012 at 00:22:37 in reply to Comment 79751

Alright, well let me answer your questions.

Not enough

Same as everyone else

60% of what they make

Not known, but funded a good amount by their own wages

Not known, but if they are underfunded then that is disgraceful and should be topped up now.

Yes, and more importantly we can never afford to not have full-time firefighters.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 21:30:39 in reply to Comment 79751

The pensions average about 60% of their final working base wage. For that they pay a good chunk into the pension plan. From what some of my friends who are firefighters have told me they pay about $500 per month into the plan. They can retire with full pension when the combination of their ages and working years reaches 81 I believe.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 11:02:16 in reply to Comment 79751

It would depend on what rank they retire at. Hamilton firefighters like most if not all in the province are in OMERS. I would encourage you to look to the OMERS website to answer the questions you put forward. Up until the early 2000s the OMERS fund was in surplus. Then because of a really stupid piece of legislation that limited the amount of surplus in the fund, OMERS was forced to STOP taking contributions. This situation lasted around 3 years and then of course the market tanked. Since then members have increased their contribution rates to rebuild the fund and the legislation has been changed to allow the fund to stay in surplus when it gets back there.

The question you should be asking is can we afford NOT TO HAVE full time firefighters. Whether you realize it or not, your life is affected by it. The insurance rates you pay on your home and property, your vehicle, business insurance, are all determined by the score the municipality you live in has with the insurance industry. Or to summarize not having proper fire service levels is an economy killer.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 12:55:10

The recent fire death at the 7-11 at Main & Ashford was also ward 3 (station 6's area)

Would rescue 6 have made a difference if it were not moved out to Stoney Creek? Sadly, we will never know.

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By ward 3 resident (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 13:16:57

Not a difference in the world. If you had any idea how fast that went up and the intensity of the fire because of those 2 trucks you wouldn't be asking. That fire was not the failure of the fire department but rather the success of a deranged arsonist

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 14:58:15

Wow. The graph says it all: Ward 3 has more people, buildings, and land, but a lot less fire fighting apparatus. It’s crazy.

Again, it’s sad to learn about decisions made in Hamilton.

Sorry to read about your fire.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 15:12:49

The graph is certainly shocking, but my intention is not for it to be misleading. Again 4 of the 6 apparatus are normally manned by volunteers. But to my mind there is still an overflow of resources out there. By stripping the city of multiple hall trucks to cover shortages created by the volunteer problem, you effectively create "gaps" in the city. This is because the busier trucks from the inner city are on calls with greater frequency. Thus leaving their first response areas to be covered by trucks from farther away..... more often. It has negative effects on response time, getting appropriate numbers of personnel on scene in a timely fashion etc etc on down the line. Bottom line it points a big flashing arrow at the fact the Hamilton Fire is understaffed.

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By geronimo (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 17:12:25

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 17:28:21 in reply to Comment 79779

Firefighters in Hamilton work the equivalent of a 42 hour week. Your representation of their schedule is incorrect. Yes many hold down second jobs. Many do so out of necessity. Define many many earning well over 100k. Do you have a source for this information?

Firefighters also live on average 8 years less than the national average and usually die from one of any forms of occupationally induced cancers.

Your welcome.

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By LOL (registered) | Posted August 19, 2012 at 20:32:56 in reply to Comment 79782

Firefighters do not "work" the equivalent of 42 hrs/wk. They are "on duty" that many hours but a lot of those hours are spent sleeping, cooking, eating and loafing. Nobody can, or be expected to, work 168 hours in a row. We should have firefighters working some kind of regular rotating shifts like everyone else. Maybe regular continental shifts could work. That way they can sleep on their own time like everyone else.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 21, 2012 at 22:20:49 in reply to Comment 79937

Yes we eat until we're tired then sleep until we're hungry. I can see that you have drank the kool aid of ignorance. Can you define loafing?

I'm at work before you are out of bed, and I've done more before 9am than you do in a day. But you never hear about it, it doesn't get reported in the paper, it's not on the 6 o'clock news because most of it isn't glamourous or exciting or newsworthy. It's just my job.

Firefighters, Medics, Cops .... are not production workers. We don't get paid to make anything, fix anything, build anything. We get paid to show up, train, maintain our skills, and utilize them when necessary. I get it. It's a hard concept to grasp if you're used to going out and punching a clock and making 1000 widgets a day, or changing a transmission or or lay bricks. Our measures of success or accomplishment are different than the general public. For us a good day at work is when its quiet, because the alternative usually means misery for someone else. When we get to go home to our kids and spouses and not have to pretend we didn't see or do something horrible it's a bonus.

Rather than worry about how many hours you think we spend sleeping and eating and "loafing". Maybe you should just feel content and reassured that there are people who are around 24/7 that will show up without question whenever we are required to do whatever it takes to protect you, your family and your property.

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By SpaceMonkee (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 14:25:04 in reply to Comment 79782

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By abstract (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 18:12:45 in reply to Comment 79782

check the sunshine list for salaries. Firefighters are the only job in the city where regular workers earn over 100K, and there are hundreds of them on there.

They work 24 hour shifts, a week on a month.

As to death rates, if true that's both criminal AND avoidable. The reason we inflate police and fire is that they have concocted a fiction of heroism and sacrifice of life and limb. This was true 100 years ago. But the reality is that these professions have become safe in the past 50 years, and rightfully so. No properly trained officer should ever get hurt, just as with construction workers taxi drivers etc. It's no justification for unreasonable salaries.

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By Megan (registered) | Posted August 15, 2012 at 10:37:08 in reply to Comment 79783

7 * 24 / 4 = 42 hours/week on average

I don't think they likely work seven 24 hour shifts in a row.

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By a (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2012 at 13:42:35 in reply to Comment 79813

however you count it they're working a week a month. Whether that's continuous or not, it's still three weeks off per month. That's why they get 1500 applicants for 30 spots. That's why they need freaking volunteers and can't service the whole city. If you paid every personal support worker the same wage - who are exposed to as much on the job danger - the budget would be 10 times what it is. But progressives go along with everything the union says and conservatives love their heroes.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2012 at 10:40:03 in reply to Comment 79813


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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 17:15:29

I would expect fire equipment to be deployed throughout the city to minimize response time across the board geographically and not be deployed based on geo-political ward boundaries. While it is true there is only one station within Ward Three, there are two other stations in its neighbouring wards that have six assigned apparatus (Stations #1 and #9).

For the sake of accuracy, it is also important to point out that Fire Station #16 is actually in Ward 11 and not Ward 10 as indicated in this article. That means that Ward 10 actually has only one station with full time staff and two apparatus assigned to it (Station #12), as well as one volunteer station with one apparatus assigned there (Station #15).

Of course, this also means that the suburban Ward 11 with 9300 dwellings and 65,000 acres of land (over ten times the land area of wards 3 and 10 combined) has two stations with seven apparatus, but no full-time firefighters - Stations #16 and #18 are both volunteer stations.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2012 at 09:04:09 in reply to Comment 79780

Having re examined the ward boundary maps you are correct in your observation. However it doesn't change the dynamic of what is happening one bit.

Shifting an apparatus to the suburbs to gloss over gaps in coverage because of a staffing issue is indicative of a larger problem. That being the fire service in Hamilton is understaffed and that the composite (part time/full time) model of fire service delivery is not working in its current form.

I would argue the only "real" rural areas left in this city are West Flamborough and a few areas South of Hwy 20 on the Stoney Creek Mountain.

I'm not sure what type of analysis was done at almalgamation as to growth/requirements of the fire department but it is clear now that understaffing and allocation of resources is a problem.

In another post in this discussion I offered my opinion that I believe the city is minimum 5 full time apparatus short. I would put one at Station 15 in Stoney Creek moving another back to Station 6. One each at Station 18 and 19 covering the new housing developments in Binbrook and Mount Hope. A second truck in Dundas Stn 23 and a second full time truck in Water down. Stn 24. This would allow a scale back of the number of "part timers" required and keep much needed resources in the inner city.
There could be any permutation of this, and I don't have any access to Hamilton Fire's dispatch data. My opinion is based on new housing development and an examination of current stations and resources. And of course, its just an opinion.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 17:24:29 in reply to Comment 79780

Stations 1 and 9 have the assigned apparatus in them for a reason. The criteria of their first in response area dictates it. This was also the case for Station 6. However your argument is the same one that Chief Simonds uses to rationalize the relocation of Rescue 6. As I have stated above, to a lay person this seems reasonable. But it doesn't work that way. The NFPA which is the recognized standard to which municipalities in North America strive to achieve and which insurance industries apply in assessing risk, uses formulas that give a template for appropriate coverage. This has been removed from Station 6. It's like taking a bandaid off of a cut on your hand to put it on one on your foot. You're still bleeding.

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By Public space Pete (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 19:35:48 in reply to Comment 79781

Greg, has the overall city fire budget kept pace with city growth or is it another case of new growth not paying for its way?
Things change. Ancaster traditionally ran its fire service with volunteers which may have been typical for a rural farming community. Now we are 35,000 people in tight burbs and two stations I think. Not sure if all those developments were charged for the new stations and the increased taxes cover full time firefighters.
Thanks for the education by the way.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 22:15:59 in reply to Comment 79789

I can't answer that at the moment Pete. I don't work for Hamilton Fire but I'm sure the info is available.

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By Ancopa (registered) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 20:07:39

Yes many hold down second jobs. Many do so out of necessity. Define many many earning well over 100k. Do you have a source for this information?

In 2011 93 front-line Hamilton Firefighters earned over $100,000. Source:

The year before? 215 Front-line Hamilton firefighters earned over $100,000. Source:

Anyway, according to the OMBI data, we are spending more money but receiving worse service than the median municipalities. This would seem to indicate to me that throwing more money to buy more resources is not the fix.

On another note, how do the first response zones line up with the wards? If station 1 and station 9 cover a bunch of ward 3 then this whole discussion is moot. I think that is a critical piece of information being left out of this discussion.

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By Anon4 (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 23:04:04 in reply to Comment 79792

Most on the sunshine list was the result of a large lump sum retro payout after years of working without a contract. How many were over the year before?

It was not representative of their actual wage.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 22:25:16 in reply to Comment 79792

I would think that the response areas do not follow ward boundaries. The NFPA standard for first in trucks is within 4 minutes 90% of the time. Second in apparatus (I'm ballparking because its been a while since I've read the document) in 6 or 7 minutes 80% of the time.
So if you can picture Pumper 9 getting from Kenilworth and Britannia to Sherman and Cumberland in 4 minutes, that isn't going to happen. As I said earlier, people who are way smarter than I am developed the criteria for apparatus location and numbers. Since I was a kid Station 6 has always had more than one apparatus. There was and is a valid reason for this.

I might also add, there are seveal old fire stations still in existence in the city that were closed in the 50s and 60s. One on Strathcona which I believe is now a Greek cultural center, and one on John St north which is now an auto mechanics shop I think. There could be more.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2012-08-14 22:27:34

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 14, 2012 at 22:19:30 in reply to Comment 79792

The reason the number of Hamilton firefighters on the Sunshine list has risen is because Hamilton Fire is not hiring to replace vacancies. Hamilton Fire has instituted call backs. That is they call off duty personnel to come in and work overtime instead of having a regularly scheduled firefighter work. This is why things like the Sunshine list are almost useless for giving an accurate picture of what is really going on.

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted August 14, 2012 at 23:05:53 in reply to Comment 79795

Correct. Retro payment and overtime from being understaffed.

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By How (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2012 at 14:28:12

Perhaps prying a bit here, but what caused your house to burn? Surely as a contractor and fireman you should have taken ever percaution.

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By NoSugarAdded (registered) | Posted August 15, 2012 at 14:59:09

Very interesting article you have written. I ran into an old friend last night who is a fire buff (someone who likes to chase fire truck) and I brought up your story. Some interesting items he told me and I wrote down. I also did a little research on line to confirm some of the numbers.

As the city has grown in the last 30 years or so from 306,000 in 1980 to 520,000 today and from around 40 sq. mi to 431.32 sq. mi, the fire department has not kept up with growth. 30 years ago they had 9 stations with full time staff in Hamilton and maybe a handful of full time staff in the region mostly chief’s and ambulance staffing for the Ancaster’s fire department.

Today they have full time firefighters in 17 stations (plus 10 volunteer stations), but have one less vehicle in service today with staffing than they had 30 years ago. That includes 2 vehicles that they staffed at the airport that they do not do today. They have less full time vehicles in service then volunteer vehicles.

They also had more staff on the vehicles 30 years ago than they have today. The heavy Rescue vehicles ran with 4 personnel but today they usually run with 2. Some pumps/engines ran with 5 persons but today they struggle (with a little overtime) to have a max of 4. Even the on duty chief’s had a driver that gave them an extra person to fill in staffing holes at a call.

Their calls have gone from around 5,000 in the mid 70’s to almost 30,000 today. During the week from 8 am to 5 pm they send at least 1 full time vehicle to all volunteer call just in case no one shows up to take a volunteer vehicle. And even then they sometimes only have one volunteer on the vehicle going to the call. All fires in the rural/volunteer areas have at least 2 full time and sometimes 3 full time vehicles going to the call 24/7.

They had more full time personnel in the early 90’s than today and that is even after incorporating full time staff from the other 5 departments they amalgamated with.

This is the list of changes in the number of vehicles in a station from the late 70’s and early 80’s to today. This would be the area from Dundurn to the Red Hill valley where there is most likely 85% of the fires in the city.

1980 Vehicles vs 2012 Vehicles

11 Ray & George St. 3 vs 1

1 John St. N. 6 (1 is a Chief) vs 4 (1 is a Chief)

6 Wentworth St. N. 3 vs 1

9 Kenilworth 4 (1 is a Chief) vs 2

8 Melvin Ave 2 vs 2 (1 is a Chief)


1980 18 staffed vehicles

2012 10 staffed vehicles

Also in 1980, the lower city has a 6th station at Main by McMaster. Station 10 had 1 vehicle. The mountain had 3 stations, 3, 4 & 12 with a total of 5 vehicles plus the airport with 2 vehicles.

Comment edited by NoSugarAdded on 2012-08-15 15:03:22

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2012 at 17:14:48 in reply to Comment 79825

Thanks very much for the input and this information goes a long way to the point I am trying to make.

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By NoSugarAdded (registered) | Posted August 15, 2012 at 16:48:57

By Ryan (registered) - website Posted August 15, 2012 at 13:53:01 in reply to Comment 79819 Hey, I just realized something: I work 40 hours a week. That works out to around 160 hours a month - out of a total of 720 hours in a month. In other words, I'm only working 22% of the time. The other 78% of the time, I can do whatever I want. What a sweet gig. Too bad more people can't get in on that 160 hours/month action

This issue pops up all the time and in other forums and discussions. I work a 12 hours shift at my industrial place of work. For every 12 hour day you work you get a day off so I work only half the year. We can do this because the place runs 24/7. If we could work a 24 hour shift we would get 2 days off and only go to work 1/3 of the days but still work our required job hours. I mention this as I have friends that work a conventional week and complain about how much time I have off.

Fire is working a 24 hour day and I believe this is still in the trial stage and may change. Some fire departments work a 10 & 14 hours system which is the same as a 12 hours system for work hours (Every day worked equals 1 day off). Police, Paramedics, Dofasco and a few other industries work a 12 hour day. There are some that work a 10 hour day for 4 days on and 3 days off. They switch starting days every few weeks and end up with a 2 day or 4 day weekend.

The time off is calculated the same for everyone! It is based on the number of hours a week you work. Most 12 and I believe 24 hour systems work on a 4 week rotation and not a chaotic month schedule. There is slightly more than 13 – 28 day months in a year (13.03571429).

So I have worked out some numbers based on a 4 week schedule. 7 days a week times 4 weeks is 28 days times 24 hours gives you 672 possible hours in 4 weeks. In that time period the average person goes into work 20 days and has 8 days off.

24 hr days x 7 work days = 168 hrs worked for 4 wks or a 42 hr/wk = to 21 – 8 hr days. 21 days off or 504 hrs off

12 hr days x 14 work days = 168 hrs worked for 4 wks or a 42 hr/wk = to 21 – 8 hr days. 14 days off or 504 hrs off

8 hr days x 20 work days = 160 hrs worked for 4 wks or a 40 hr/wk = to 20 – 8 hr days. 8 days off or 512 hrs off

7.5 hr days x 20 work days = 150 hrs worked for 4 wks or a 37.5 hr/wk = to 18.75 – 8 hr days. 8 days off or 522 hrs off

7hr days x 20 work days = 140 hrs worked for 4 wks or a 35 hr/wk = to 17.5 – 8 hr days. 8 days off or 532 hrs off

10 hr days x 20 work days = 160 hrs worked for 4 wks or a 40 hr/wk = to 20 – 8 hr days. 12 days off or 512 hrs off

So you can see that the person working 12 or 24 hour shift system has less hours off than any other type of system. What the system does is cram the work time into a consecutive hour’s system to give them more days off without adding more staffing. For hours off a person working a 7 hour day has the most hours off.

I hope this clears it up a bit. I have posted this in a few other forums and discussions. This is only job envy. I have friends who would like my hours but not the job. Some do not like the idea of working shifts and that is the only way you can work any 12, 14 or 24 system. I know that there are exceptions out there but this is what most people work. If you work a 60 hour week and get paid for only a 40 hour week, you need to get another job.

Comment edited by NoSugarAdded on 2012-08-15 16:55:05

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By 4 alarm sprawl (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 02:00:08

seems to me that most of this problem is the result of sprawl, no? are the development charges capable of funding all the myriad of infrastructure needed, including building or upgrading new fire stations, and purchasing new equipment? doesnt seem like it.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 08:48:33 in reply to Comment 79837

I'm not sure it's about sprawl. HFD has good equipment and Station locations are good primarily because of the existence of the volunteer Stations in the old municipalities. I think it's been more a conscious decision to not properly fund fire protection. The politicians are in possession of the information required. They have the info I posted here including the 2010 CAO's benchmarking report. There has simply been a steady eroding of staffing levels since the 1980s. I find this disturbing as many of the people on council were around when Plastimet happened. What bothers me more is that they seem to have no trouble essentially handing over $50 million to a money losing private business to build a new stadium in EXACTLY the same place this business whined for years that it couldn't make money, but funding public safety clearly isn't a priority. To put Hamilton Fire where it should be would mean probably 4 or 5 cents a day on a residential property tax bill. At least have the debate in public. Instead we're talking about casino's .

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 02:29:59

I find it deeply offensive as someone who lives in the north-eastern part of Ward 2 that people would rather spout their union-bashing rhetoric than address an issue which could easily mean my death or the smoldering ruin of my home.

This has nothing to do with how many firefighters are on the sunshine list and everything to do with how many residents of the above-mentioned areas make those salaries. After recently announcing the closure of every inner-city highschool we've got, this blatant disregard for the lives of poorer, more urban residents accomplishes nothing but adding injury to insult.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 21:39:53 in reply to Comment 79838

What a load of nonsense. I live in Ward 7 with a population equal to wards 1 and 2 combined and we only have 1 station. It has nothing to do with economic status and everything to do with response times and the historic number of calls. Ward 8 which has a huge population as well is only serviced by one station. It's not exactly a poor area.

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 16:00:26 in reply to Comment 79838

There are two stations with five manned apparatus within a three-minute response range of the north-eastern part of Ward 2.

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By realitycheck (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 16:03:25 in reply to Comment 79860

Correction and clarification: One station with one apparatus within four minutes of Wellington and Burlington, another station with four apparatus within six minutes of the same corner.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 16:26:58 in reply to Comment 79861

That's providing they are all in station, which is almost never the case as call volume in the core rises. As I am typing this there is a working fire at Wentworth and Barton almost across the street from Station 6. It appears that Pumper 1 was the first truck on scene followed by Rescue 1 and Aerial 1. I didn't see Pumper 6.
I'll find out tomorrow, and confirm.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2012-08-16 16:28:12

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 10:22:22 in reply to Comment 79838

Can you think of another area of the city where HFD could move a fire truck and have no one notice or make a fuss?

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By kevin (registered) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 10:19:57 in reply to Comment 79838

Exactly. I'm encouraging everyone I know to read this.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted August 16, 2012 at 14:14:05 in reply to Comment 79845

Kevin, I hope that you know a lot of politicians, because they are the ones who ought to be reading this.

Hopefully this issue will re-surface in the local media as it obviously needs addressing.

Thanks Greg for bringing this to our attention even though it maddens this Ward 3 resident.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2012 at 16:29:56 in reply to Comment 79855

Council will not do anything about it unless enough people scream about it and keep it on the front burner. Civic policy these days is to play risk management roulette and hope nothing bad happens, and then only deal with the aftermath.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted August 17, 2012 at 22:47:51

Somehow I think those who bash are the ones who can't or won't OR didn't make the cut to be a fireman. And BTW I know several fireman who have passed away within a few years of retirement and a few who passed while on the job. The stress is intense as it is with the police and EMS. I for one value all of our emergency service personnel. It's easy to be negative but I bet you're happy they're there.

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