Council approves hiring new firefighters by spring
Spring Creek Fire Hall, also known as Fire Hall 3, will be staffed with full-time firefighters, to keep pace with population growth and mounting concern over wildfire preparation.
During the regular Tuesday evening council meeting, RMOW Council voted to fund the addition of two career firefighters on a seven-day-a-week basis, during daytime hours. The new staff are expected to be in place by spring.
The adjustment will cost up to $555,000, out of the General Operating Reserve, and will be reviewed at years’ end, with plans to consider expansion to 24-hour coverage by 2026.
Whistler’s permanent population increased by over 20 per cent (2,420 people) between 2015 and 2020, according to B.C. Statistics. The community’s population equivalent—which includes second homeowners, seasonal staff, commuters and day visitors—also grew to an estimated annualized average daily population of over 42,000 in 2023. More than 20,000 are estimated to be ‘resident’ on any given day.
Reasons for the new service include:
- Significant recent, ongoing and forecasted growth in the south end of the community.
There is an increasing need to provide additional emergency response services to the fastest growing area of the community.
- Increased call volumes and response readiness in the south end of the community.
All call types are growing faster in the south end of the community than the rest of the community. Calls include motor vehicle, medical, wildland/brush and structure fire.
- An opportunity to decrease fire insurance costs across the community.
Phased integration of full-time, career-based firefighters at the Spring Creek Fire Hall will have a significant, positive impact on the community Fire Underwriters Service ratings for the community, with consequent reductions in collective insurance premiums beginning in 2026. Insurance rates have been rising in the wake of recent wildfire; this means rates will be reduced from what they would be in the absence of this change.
- Improvement in the community’s wildfire defense posture.
Emergency response time matters in all emergency response scenarios, but this is especially true in wildfire response scenarios. Moreover, the recently completed Wildfire Defence Plan highlights the wildfire protection benefits of increased full-time staffing beyond the main Village fire hall.
- Staffing the Spring Creek Fire Hall can meaningfully improve emergency response activities for the entire community.
Adding daytime staff in Spring Creek will greatly improve our ability to respond to simultaneous emergencies throughout the community.
The 2024 service growth represents the equivalent of a 1.1 per cent tax increase; however, as the Five-Year Financial Plan was already adopted for 2024, the funds will come from reserves. The overall staffing model for the WFRS will be reviewed by Council later this year.