CAFC makes recommendations ahead of federal 2024 budget
By CFF StaffHeadlines News Codes and standards CAFC
Sept. 6, 2023, Ottawa – The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) has made several recommendations ahead of the federal 2024 budget.
The recommendations, which compiled data collected from more than 500 fire departments across the country, comes as Canada experiences its worst fire season in North American history.
The association is strongly advocating for the implementation of a national fire administration. The goal would be to develop an agency similar to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has operated since the 1970s. Doing so would recognize and coordinate fire and emergency management across all federal policy.
In addition, the CAFC is asking for $2 million to assist with uniting fire service professionals across the country to discuss key issues.
Modernizing fire equipment and training is also a key priority. The CAFC reported that 56 per cent of fire departments have deferred equipment purchases this year due to fiscal pressures.
More than 700 fire departments are using gear that was purchased more than 10 years ago, which the CAFC said is a violation of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
Other recommendations include increasing the volunteer firefighter tax credit, adopting the CAFC’s plan for wildfire fighting, and funding a national smoke alarm campaign.
The CAFC said in its submission to the government that it would like to see the volunteer tax credit raised from $3,000 to $10,000. The organization’s data shows a drop in the number of volunteer firefighters from 126,000 in 2016 to 89,000 in 2023.
Both 2022 and 2023 data show that about 32 per cent of volunteer firefighters are over the age of 50, and that there are more than 15,000 vacancies.
Fire departments also reported that 9,000 volunteer firefighters retired or left their roles in 2023, taking with them 100,000 years of experience. The CAFC noted that new recruits are joining, but they do not have the same experience.
The CAFC also asked the federal government to legislate fire protection to make it a protected service, and to mandate smoke alarms across the country, including for Indigenous communities. The request also includes funding for sprinkler retrofits.
Recent statistics show that the death toll from residential fires within Indigenous communities is 10 times higher than anywhere else in Canada.
Ontario saw 133 deaths, the most in more than two decades, and British Columbia saw a 207 per cent increase in fire fatalities. Statistics Canada reported that 91 per cent of fire fatalities occur in residential homes.
The NFPA reported that 60 per cent of fire deaths in the home are caused by fires in 41 per cent of properties with no smoke alarms.
As for wildfires, the CAFC has a 13-point plan that includes interoperable equipment, resources and training, additional resources from the federal and provincial governments to optimize deployments, expansion of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre table to include fire departments and others and integration of Indigenous wildfire practices into western practices.
The plan also advocates for funding fire departments to implement FireSmart, community resilience assessment plans and critical infrastructure risk assessments.
Additionally, the recommendations suggest allocating $500 million to train 1,000 community-based firefighters. The CAFC said this aligns with the campaign pledge the Liberals made during the federal 2021 election.
To read the full list of recommendations, click here.
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