Canada –-TORONTO – Toronto Fire is on the verge of adding dozens of firefighters to its ranks.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti led the community development and recreation committee in voting to order City Manager Joe Pennachetti to start a new firefighter recruitment class this summer and, depending on staffing levels, another one in this fall.
Tuesday’s move – if city council approves it – fast tracks hiring immediately rather than waiting until staff vacancies reach a certain level. The average size of a firefighter class is around 40 to 45 people.
Acting Fire Chief Ron Jenkins said Toronto Fire certainly needs a recruitment class.
“We need to fill our vacancies without a doubt,” he said.
Jenkins said the fire service has 127 vacancies right now and was managing that situation. The city currently starts a new recruitment class when the fire service reaches 132 vacancies.
Ed Kennedy, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, said the committee’s move ensures a class will be initiated sooner than was planned.
“There will be more firefighters on (the street) sooner this year,” Kennedy said.
The association is in arbitration fighting the city’s refusal to start a new recruitment class once the service reaches 40 vacancies.
Committee members also asked city staff to look at how the fire service could use overtime to help fill staffing shortages.
Kennedy said the association is concerned about public safety not “getting extra money in our pocket for overtime.”
“I would rather overtime never be in the discussion,” he said.
He argued the issue hasn’t come up before because up until last year the city automatically called for a new class when attrition reached a certain level.
“As far as I’m concerned, (overtime) is a temporary fix until we get proper staffing levels,” Kennedy said.
“The fix is proper staffing.”
Budget Chief Mike Del Grande said he expects the request to start a recruitment class of firefighters will come to the budget committee for approval.
Del Grande said he’s still waiting to see the results of a review of Toronto Fire and Toronto EMS.
“If anything we need more ambulance people,” he said.