After putting off a decision to expand the existing Glenmore fire hall in last year’s budget, Kelowna city council has been told the proposed location of a new, larger, fire station in the area—as proposed by the fire department— is the wrong location.
And an analysis conducted by a consultant hired to look at operations of the Kelowna Fire Department says the city would be better off adding resources to the main fire hall on Enterprise Way before building a new hall in Glenmore.
Dan Haight of Darkhorse Analytics told council Monday a new Glenmore hall should be built in the Glenmore Road and Watson Road area rather than on the new John Hindle Drive as previously proposed.
But before that happens, he said the city should consider adding another unit to the fire hall on Enterprise Way, as that would help increase fire protection coverage to a larger area of the entire city.
Haight report said the move would help response times for both fire calls and the and medical first response calls answered by the fire department. Currently, 65 per cent of the calls the KFD receives are for medical assistance.
Trained firefighters deal with patients until ambulance paramedics arrive and patients are then tuned over the the paramedics and the firefighters move on to their next call or return to the fire hall.
In last year’s budget, the KFD proposed tuning the existing Glenmore fire hall, which is now staffed by volunteer firefighters, into a full-time hall.
The budget request, for 12 new firefighters to staff the hall, a new fire truck and and improvements tot he existing hall was put off until this year. Those three requests are included as priorities in the 2018 provisional budget that council will consider on Thursday, and are expected to be approved.
As a result of the postponement of the change in Glenmore, council ordered what was called a “value-for-money” review of the department.
The review, conducted by Darkhorse Analytics, found that over the past three years the number of calls to the department has grown by 10 per cent each year, caused in large part by the city’s growth and an increase in medical first response calls. In 2016, more than 11,400 calls were received by the KFD.
Haight said in the Glenmore area, the majority of calls—medical first response calls— come from two area retirement homes. The department says it is working with the facilities in a bid to reduce the number of calls they make for assistance.
The analysis also found that as the number of calls in the Mission area grows, the city will need to consider a second fire hall in the area. It says the existing hall should eventually be moved to the South Pandosy area and a second hall should be built in the Upper Mission area.
It also suggests the existing downtown fire hall on Water Street would be better located farther east, closer the Richter Street, as that would allow for better coverage and better response times to a wider area of the city.
Haight called the KFD a very busy department when compared to others in the province and said medical calls are taxing its resources.
Councillors questioned the impact those calls are having on fire department and city resources and wondered why the department is having to cover for the ambulance service so as much as it is across the city.
They were told there are not enough ambulances here and the ones that do operate often get tied up at the hospital. They also get called out of town to cover others areas in the valley.
“The problem starts at hospitals, tying up ambulances waiting to offload patients, leaving them unable to respond to medical calls,” said Haight. “It’s a large chain of events that causes this problem.”
The city plans to talk to the province about the issue of ambulance service in Kelowna.