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Mission Fire Rescue Service unveils master plan

More firefighters, resources needed in the next five years: fire chief
Mission Fire Rescue Service (MFRS) extinguish a fire at the Mission Inn Motel on June 14, 2023. Fire chief Mark Goddard presented council with the department’s master plan on Tuesday (April 2). / Dillon White File Photo

Mission Fire Rescue Service Chief Mark Goddard presented council with the department’s vision for the next five years at Tuesday’s (April 2) meeting.

An update to the MFRS master plan includes recommended additions of one fire station, two land purchases, three apparatus, 12 staff and 20 paid-on-call firefighters.

Coun. Jag Gill says each budget cycle will matter to ensure the goals are met within the five-year timeframe.

“There’s a bit of catch-up that we got to play in respects to not just staffing but maintaining our existing infrastructure and as we buy new infrastructure. But I think throughout the strategy and the master plan, you’ve laid the foundation to get us on track,” he said.

According to the master plan, Mission should begin building Fire Station 4 in Cedar Valley “without delay.”

“Building Fire Station 4 in Cedar Valley is a holdover item from the previous master plan. This plan identified Station 4 as needed in 2018, and the same conditions that drove this recommendation exist today in earnest,” the master plan reads.

READ MORE: New fire prevention requirements coming for Mission

It says Station 1 can no longer provide consistent response times to the Cedar Valley area. The plan also suggests the city should obtain land for Fire Station 5 in the Silverhill area as soon as it becomes available, in addition to another location for a fire training facility. The proposed Station 5 would not replace the current Silverdale fire station.

“While [Silverdale] is only a planning area at this time, the need for the station is apparent by the population growth forecast for the area and the services required,” it reads.

In addition to facilities, the plan stated that increased density in Mission increases risk. The number of MFRS calls has risen in the last five years due to several factors including population growth. With the growth, the need for both paid-call and career firefighters increases, according to the plan.

“History, coupled with the current fiscal challenges facing the city, make large staff moves an unpopular option for council, so consistent smaller investments will be necessary to keep fire rescue services viable now as well as prepared for the future,” the document reads.

More personnel for the medic truck would also increase its usage and provide more reliable metrics on the true effect of its addition. However, Goddard says the medic truck has made an impact since it was introduced roughly a year ago.

“Our overtime was significantly less last year and our incidents of forced overtime — which are the highest driver of poor mental health — were significantly less with the medic being up,” Goddard said.

READ MORE: Medical incidents make up majority of Mission Fire Rescue Service calls in 2022

The presentation also stressed the impact of climate change on Mission from floods to fires to heat domes to ice storms. The plan shared the department’s need to examine its role and capacity to respond to events such as atmospheric rivers and rainstorms.

“Currently Mission Fire Rescue is trained in flat water rescue and is on pace with a departmental goal to ensure 75 per cent of personnel are trained in this discipline. As part of this assessment MFRS should examine capacity, equipment, and training needs to grow their water rescue program to be better poised to respond to specific hazards associated with atmospheric rivers, including further training in swift water,” the plan reads.

Meanwhile, heat domes come as a one-two punch for MFRS due to the wildfire threat and the need for medical response. The plan says MFRS needs more clarity on its role during those types of events.

“The capacity for all fire resources to be swallowed up into medical response is high, as BC Ambulance Service continues to struggle to maintain daily service let alone during a heat-related emergency,” it reads.

Half of the department’s fleet could also become four-wheel drive as the apparatus are replaced. Multi-purpose apparatus allows for more efficient response to rural and remote areas of Mission, including forest service roads during wildfires.

Goddard said only one of the department’s trucks was able to make it up the hill during the Hunter Hill wildfire in Mission last summer.

“It was the only engine on scene out there other than our wildland unit, just to give you an idea of its importance,” Goddard said.

Collaboration with the forestry department on wildfire mitigation and response was also outlined as a target for MFRS moving forward.

READ MORE: Wildfire near Cannell Lake in Mission officially out

Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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