At a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, Kingston City councillors are being asked to endorse an operational planning model for response time improvements for Kingston Fire and Rescue (KFR). The new planning model comes as a result of a 2022 Station Location Study and Response Time Optimization report, which called on KFR to improve response times and optimize staffing in both the west- and east-end service areas.
The report also recommended the restoration of the Railway Street fire station in Kingston’s inner harbour, “to accommodate appropriate apparatus to address the response time deficits” in Kingston’s east-end and central neighbourhoods. On July 12, 2022, Kingston City Council approved the report’s recommendations, while calling for the required operational model to be presented to Council as part of future budget submissions.
City staff have now prepared an official operational planning model, which includes options to “mitigate current and future service challenges,” while also recommending “incremental staffing adjustments.” In terms of the plan to alleviate service challenges, the report notes that fire station boundaries within the City of Kingston were recently adjusted in Q2 2022, “and will be reassessed annually thereafter.”
“Funding for a new west-end fire station location and building is being proposed in the upcoming 15-year capital forecast to align with timing for land acquisition, planning, design, and construction,” the report adds. Construction on the new building should be complete by 2026, while the rebuild of the station on Railway Street will be done by 2025, according to the City.
“This current station is beyond its useful life with limitations on apparatus, equipment, and personnel accommodation. Rebuilding the fire station will permit the right apparatus to be situated to address the response time deficits for first arriving apparatus within the central and east side urban areas,” the report says of the current Railway Street station.
The report also notes that staff will analyze the response times of units coming from the central area to the City’s east end, in order to better understand the new Waaban Crossing’s overall impact on KFR services.
In terms of the need for staffing optimization in the Kingston’s west end, the report states that, while the population in that part of the city has grown by 33 per cent over the past 20 years, the number of “career firefighters” in the area has remained unchanged since 2003. The operational plan recommends a phased approach to the increase of career firefighters over a five-year period.
The year 2024 will see an increase in the “urban career fire station/apparatus staffing complement” from 120 to 128 firefighters, or 32 per platoon. The additional firefighters will be assigned to KFR’s station on Woodbine Road to “improve urban response.” The report indicates the increase in staff will carry a price tag of approximately $800,000. Years two and three of the five-year plan will see an additional four firefighters per year added to the Woodbine station, at a rate of $100,000 per firefighter. Twenty firefighters will be moved from the Woodbine Road station to the new west-end station, upon its completion.
By 2028, new response protocols will be developed to replace certain volunteer crews in the east-end service areas with career firefighters. “The planned east urban area improvements will match the operational parameters currently shared between career and volunteer firefighters in the west coverage areas of Kingston,” the operational plan states.
In terms of public engagement, the report notes staff will be adding relevant information and updates on the operational planning model, including the new west-end fire station, to the City’s Get Involved Kingston platform.