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Sudbury can’t maintain all 24 fire, paramedic stations, report concludes

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A review of Greater Sudbury’s 24 fire and paramedic stations has concluded that many of them should be consolidated, a move that wouldn’t affect service levels or lead to layoffs.

That’s the conclusion of a review by a group called Operational Research in Health (ORH) Ltd., which was tasked to review the current situation and determine “the ideal number and location of emergency service stations.”

If all the report’s recommendations were followed, the number of fire and paramedic stations would drop to 13. While buildings would close, the report said no changes to staffing are recommended.

Reviewing fire stations has been controversial in the past in the past in the city, with some areas concerned about the loss of volunteer stations.

A controversial report in 2017 recommended the city hire dozens of new full-time firefighters to equalize response times, but it sparked a huge outcry and was ultimately dropped.

The driving force behind the review is the fact many of the buildings are close to or past their life cycle and repairing or replacing them would cost as much as $43 million over the next decade.

The current review found that nine out of the 24 fire and paramedic stations are ideally located to provide emergency response to the areas they serve.

“Four fire and paramedic stations have the potential to be relocated to provide an overall improved response,” the report said.

“The remaining 11 fire and paramedic stations could be consolidated with minimal impact to response.”

While not supporting all recommendations, city staff said they generally support the plan. Specifically, they opposed consolidating the Chelmsford and Azilda fire stations, because both buildings are in decent shape and such a move would impact response times in Azilda.

“Staff recognize, based on expressed community priorities and known capital investment needs, sustaining 24 fire and paramedic stations is neither practical nor required,” the report said.

“The ORH report describes how the corporation can reduce its asset footprint without impairing service or staffing levels required for meeting council’s service level expectations.”

Most recommendations involve volunteer fire stations, but the report recommends a career station located in Minnow Lake be moved closer to Kingsway Boulevard Falconbridge Road.

“Staff are supportive of the recommendation to relocate Minnow Lake,” the report said.

“This relocation has the potential to benefit response times for both fire and paramedic services.”

For volunteer fire stations, the report recommended the Capreol, Levack, Dowling, Whitefish and Chelmsford Stations should remain where they are.

But several other stations could be combined into one without harming overall response. Those stations are:

- Consolidate Skead and Falconbridge into ideal site for Garson;

- Consolidate Val Caron and Hanmer at current site in Val Thérèse;

- Consolidate Vermilion Lake into Dowling;

- Consolidate Beaver Lake into Whitefish;

- Consolidate Wahnapitae and Coniston at ideal site;

- Consolidate Waters, Lively and Copper Cliff at Anderson Drive; and,

- Consolidate Azilda at Chelmsford.

The report also recommends consolidating the paramedic and fire station in Capreol into one building, since it “would reduce operating costs without impacting staff and response times.”

The review heads to city council Dec. 13. Read the full report here.

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