Why We Need to Regionalize Fire Services
One of the issues I am passionate about, and will be campaigning on in the upcoming municipal election, is the need to regionalize fire services.
Unlike Police and Ambulance services in York Region we still have fire services delivered separately by each town. The only exception is that a number of years ago the Towns of Newmarket and Aurora merged their services to deliver a higher level of service to their residents. Therefore, in the Region of York we have 8 separate Fire Departments, and with them there are 8 separate bureaucracies.
The time has come to merge all fire departments in the Region of York.
We will improve the level of service, avoid many costs, and eliminate much of the duplication. There is no need to have 8 separate fire chiefs and 12 deputy chiefs throughout our region.
When determining where to build a fire hall, a fire department will generally examine response times in concentric circles from the planned fire hall. No municipality will ever build a fire hall on its borders for that reason. The residents of Northern Newmarket and Southern East Gwillimbury would likely benefit from a hall built near Green Lane. But, that would never happen without a merger or an automatic aid agreement.
Residents don’t care about borders, they care about response times, how safe their families are. There’s an old line in politics that the only people who care about municipal borders are the politicians and the tax collectors. Residents care about services.
The successful merger of the Newmarket and Aurora fire departments can be replicated. Central York Fire is a great example of what two communities can do when they come together. The ego’s were checked and residents were put first.
When I was on Newmarket Council I was proud to serve on the Joint Council Committee that governed Central York Fire, and served for a number of years as Chairperson. I know that many firefighters throughout York Region would support this move. Firefighters care deeply about their communities and know that a more unified fire service in York Region would better serve its residents.
There are many logistics that would need to be worked out. The first step would be the Region formally conducting a study to examine the cost/benefit analysis that will also equally examine service level improvements. The key to moving this forward is not just proposing the idea, rather, it is about electing someone that has a history of collaboration and working with municipal partners. Regional Fire is not a new idea in Newmarket, but I have the ability to bring together my counterparts in other municipalities, administrations, and firefighter associations. I am confident I can move this forward.