By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
The Town of Coaldale will begin to roll out recommendations made in the recently completed Fire Services Master Plan (FSMP), in the first half of 2023.
The need for an FSMP was identified in 2021 as a high priority for 2022, as part of the Coaldale & District Emergency Services (CDES) strategic plan. Although Coaldale has previously been included in studies led by Lethbridge County, the most recent one is now 20 years old, and did not specifically consider recommendations for the Town of Coaldale.
On Dec. 21, Council approved the $50,000 request to conduct the FSMP in 2022. One consideration for this, as outlined in the 2021 proposal, Coaldale has undergone “drastic” growth in the past two decades, resulting in new service challenges, particularly in the wake of rising call volumes. Following the successful tender request, the FSMP was completed by consultants working for Behr Integrated Solutions.
The information presented in the FSMP will assist elected officials to better manage these new development pressures on town emergency services with the intent to maintain or enhance the safety of firefighters and the general public alike.
The FSMP is designed to “assist elected officials in defining how fire service delivery is expected to develop over a period of time,” which for Coaldale, will be 10 years. The document also provides recommendations to inform council which helps determine a level of service policy direction for fire services and outlines a process to guide decision-making with the goal of improving the safety of the community.
During the Dec. 12 meeting, council was presented with the 25 recommendations outlined in the draft FSMP. Unlike previous studies, this completed draft FSMP specifically analyzes the emergency services department in Coaldale.
The consultants concluded Coaldale is a “community doing well wanting to do better”, noting the Town’s fire service, and CDES “is a very well-led service.” The report applauded the existing initiatives which are “considered unique practices,” including the technical rescue partnership with Picture Butte, and the proposed regional emergency services management model, as well as tax incentive for paid, on-call firefighters and businesses, to encouraging firefighter retention.
One of the recommendations made was to improve communication between the Town’s planning and development department and the CDES through a formalized policy, to allow the CDES to have input in the planning stages of future developments which Behr’s consultants noted, “would be particularly important as you look at Coaldale’s growth and anything outside of that 10 minute response time.”
The FSMP outlines the possibility of moving all data to a centralized, GIS-based system so that as systems evolve, the Town’s planning and development would have access to the same system as CDES, as well as Public Works, and could even be expanded into Lethbridge County.
“We noted in our performance analysis, for some locations within the community, the initial response performance is 10 minutes or more,” noting the response time should be 10 minutes in 90 per cent of responses.
Possible solutions presented to council included building a second fire station to reduce response times, but the consultants’ recommendation would be for council to consider establishing a sprinkler bylaw which would mandate new developments to include sprinkler systems.
The timeline to present the plan to the public is anticipated in the first half of 2023, once staff can meet with an Emergency Service Committee. Council indicated holding a public house in 2023 to speak with the public and get a better sense of what the community expects for the level of service.
The complete list of summarized recommendations can be found as part of the council agenda packet from the Dec. 12 regular council meeting.