AFRS Services Update

Setting the Record Straight

This information provides additional context in relation to recent online information posted by Abbotsford Fire Fighters Association,

The City of Abbotsford is committed to ensuring the safety of all who work, live and play in our community.
The City recently adopted an updated Fire Rescue Service Masterplan which sets out short and long term plans for how our Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service (AFRS) will continue to meet the needs of our community as we grow and develop.  

The Masterplan focuses heavily on public safety, and targets enhanced services directly to the community and the City’s neighborhoods. This includes increasing the number of firefighters serving the community.

Here are a few key facts:

  • Abbotsford City Council approved 6 additional firefighters in 2018 and those positions have been filled.
  • The proposed 2019 budget includes a request for 2 additional firefighters.
  • AFRS will review additional resourcing needs on an annual basis with public safety being a key priority.

Public Safety and Service Delivery:

The nature of Fire Rescue Service response continues to change. On the one hand, call volumes continues to rise, due in part to unforeseen factors like the opioid crisis and related medical issues; yet on the other, new technology, education, building codes and progressive construction methods have led to reduction in the number of fire-related calls for service.   

It’s important to note however that with respect to all medical calls, BC Ambulance has the primary responsibility for medical calls, with AFRS providing support. 

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards (USA):

The NFPA 1710 standards have a single focus solely on response times and firefighter crew size. The standard does not consider other key public safety elements such as a Hazard Risk Vulnerability Assessment of the area. In fact, no local government in British Columbia is currently meeting the NFPA 1710 standard.

The NFPA standard for response times is 384 seconds in an urban zone 90% of the time. This is the standard that AFRS works toward achieving.  

Abbotsford City Council has endorsed an AFRS response target of 4 minutes travel time with 4 Firefighters as ‘first engine on scene’ and a 9 minute travel time target with 12 Firefighters first full alarm assignment on scene. These are the targets that AFRS will continue to work towards. When AFRS evaluates its incident responses it looks at response times in conjunction with risk and incident types to have a more comprehensive picture of how service is being delivered to our community.

Funding for Fire Rescue Services:

Neighboring cities such as Langley Township and Coquitlam have significantly different community composition than the City of Abbotsford. The City’s investment into fire rescue services as outlined in the 2018 Masterplan directly addresses the needs of Abbotsford – the strategies of other communities are unique to each context.  

Abbotsford is the largest response area and fifth largest in population in BC. Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service operates as an efficient and effective fire service with having a low per capita cost of $117 in 2017. 

The large response area within the City of Abbotsford is made up of 75% agricultural lands. This means that there are larger distances between occupied dwellings. It also translates to a lower probability risk of incident by density.

The Abbotsford Firefighters Association has advocated diverting 2% of the City’s revenue to staff Firehall 7 with a career engine and add two 2 person squads.  Unfortunately, these numbers are inaccurate.

2% of the City’s annual budget equates to approximately $3.5 million.  The actual expected cost for staffing Firehall 7 with a career engine and adding two 2 person squads is closer to $5.7 million, and does not include other operating costs such as turnout gear, uniforms, training, and maintenance.  This is a $2.1 million shortfall from what the Firefighters Association has advocated for.

Looking closely at how we spend taxpayer dollars to support our community is critical.   

AFRS 2017 Fire Expense per Capita - png format

Notably, the 2019 City of Abbotsford operating budget passed by City Council on March 25, 2019 approved 2 additional firefighters as AFRS moved to staff a fulltime 2 squad (medical) unit. 

This years’ budget also approved a $700,000 annual operating expenditure to upgrade the AFRS radio system. The upgrade in newer technology addresses firefighter safety and efficiencies through interoperability in communications directly with the Abbotsford Police Department and BC Ambulance Service.

The City of Abbotsford through the approved 2018 Master Plan has identified $45m over the next 25 years in capital investments for the Fire Rescue Service.

Moving Forward:

AFRS recently contracted Darkhorse Analytics to provide an analysis as to the best location for the replacement of Fire Hall 6. In reviewing the City as a whole AFRS asked to analyze the best locations for two additional fire halls into the future based on the 2017 Official Community Plan (OCP). 

The 3 year incident response average quoted in the campaign of 8914 does not provide the public with the information on the reduction of 695 incident responses in 2018. There are many changes in the past 8-10 years in Abbotsford that impact operations and the delivery of services.  

Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service will continue to pursue the direction provided in the 2018 AFRS Masterplan which includes increased full-time staffing along with firefighter health and safety, prevention of incidents and paid on call firefighters.