Surrey’s fire department is expecting to add 10 new firefighters to its roster in 2021, under the proposed city budget, to help meet service demands in North Surrey and the city’s downtown.
According to a Financial Plan –General Operating corporate report, 50 per cent of the funding for the 10 full-time firefighters is to be provided in 2021 and the remainder in 2022. Future requests for staffing increases will be “developed” after further evaluation is conducted in 2023, the report indicates.
As for policing, the report notes that the 2021 budget “provides for 75 per cent of the current funding of the RCMP contract to accommodate the transition of police services.”
Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas is pleased with his allotment.
“That is what I asked for and I’m pleased that recommendation is included in the corporate report,” Thomas told the Now-Leader on Tuesday. “Last year I’d asked for eight, to put a two-person truck in service, and it was delayed until this year. This year we just added two more to it because of our depth, we were staffed quite close to the line in terms of our replacement depth. And so getting the extra two helps us just a little bit with our replacement depth.”
Thomas expects the new firefighters will be on duty by mid-2021. The hiring process, he said, usually starts in January and it’s “quite a long, drawn-out process that takes four to five months to complete.”
After that, there’s recruit training. “I would look for around mid-year, end of June, for when we’ll have those resources going into service,” Thomas said. “It’ll be great.”
Thomas told the Now-Leader in Dec. 2019 that the department wanted to hire eight more firefighters for 2020 but “just like all other departments in the city, there were no additional resources approved.
“We did make our request, we did agree to delay it a year like everybody else in the city did, so council’s aware that we do need more resources as the population grows and workload will increase,” Thomas told us then. “This is not a rejection by council; it wasn’t a ‘no’ to our request, it was just a delay. I feel pretty comfortable it should get addressed in the next budget cycle.”
“For this year, it’s just the way the budget went,” Thomas said at the time. “We didn’t get additional resources but I believe our staff are really engaged. I know they were hoping to get more resources this year but they will continue to do a good job.”
Surrey’s next finance committee meeting is set for Nov. 30, at 2 p.m.