Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit February 16, 2017 - 10:00 am

Busy year for Iqaluit first-responders, but fire losses low: report

Firefighter morale to become a priority this year

Luc Grandmaison, the city's director of emergency and protective services, speaks at an Iqaluit City Council meeting Feb. 14. (FILE PHOTO)
Luc Grandmaison, the city's director of emergency and protective services, speaks at an Iqaluit City Council meeting Feb. 14. (FILE PHOTO)

While Iqaluit dispatch lines glowed red hot throughout 2016, the actual damage caused by fires was kept to a minimum, city’s emergency and protective services director, Luc Grandmaison, said Feb. 15 in a report to councillors.

“Dispatch has been tremendously busy,” the city’s emergency and protective services director, Grandmaison said.

Over 79,666 transmissions—of those, over 23,000 were calls for service, ranging from minor requests to major incidents—lit up the city’s switchboard last year, including 1,043 calls for emergency ambulance service and 42 fires.

But fire losses were low, amounting to only about $138,972, Grandmaison said.

That’s due in part to quick response times by the city’s fire department, which successfully contained about 72 per cent of all fires within their room of origin—usually the kitchen, Grandmaison noted.

“The greater that percentage, the less fire loss will happen in our city,” he said.

Three residents and one firefighter were injured during 42 fires, Grandmaison said, a list that includes 14 outdoor fires, three vehicle fires and 25 structural fires.

Reported revenues gained by the city from fire and ambulance services are projected at over $1.6 million last year.

That revenue is due in part to an increase in service rates from $800 to $900 per call-out, according to Grandmaison, combined with 1,058 billed medevac transports by city ambulances between the hospital and airport.

But while the fire detachment has performed well, under the surface tensions within the organization have been smouldering.

That much was apparent during a town hall forum hosted by city councillors last November, when Sandra Inutiq of Iqaluit, the partner of a firefighter, slammed the city for alleged burnout among full-time firefighters, excessive overtime hours and frequent staff turnover.

“The morale is crushed and the community that used to exist amongst firefighters is no longer there,” Inutiq said at the forum.

“For sure, morale could be better if I can say so,” Grandmaison told council, Feb. 14.

“We’re looking to bring a consulting firm in to try to work on some of the issues we’ve been having over the past and we were offered that service, so we’re looking to providing that service for management and firefighters.”

External consulting will include an in-depth look at how the fire detachment’s human resources, equipment and communications operate—part of a citywide evaluation of services committed to by councillors in their new strategic plan.

The city’s fire department has 49 personnel which includes 20 full-time and 20 volunteer firefighters. For them, the evaluation will role out in two stages, Grandmaison said.

“Leadership, or improving morale is short term, medium term is analysis of the whole fire service to meet the strategic plan that we put forward,” he said.

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern added that the city is looking closely at all its departments.

“We’re looking at all operations, and making our services more effective both internally and for the residents we serve.”

A complete report on the city’s emergency services is expected to be posted on the city’s website in March, Grandmaison added.

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