Fire crews slower to respond in Toronto’s low-income neighbourhoods, data shows
Toronto Fire Services met its target response times at lower rates in areas designated as struggling with inequity and lack of public investment.
The one thing I didn’t see the story touch on was the locations of fire stations throughout the city.
That’s also a key factor, the farther away that crews and equipment are from a fire, the worse the response time is going to be.
My father spent 35 years as a Toronto firefighter. I grew up around the fire department. I have many friends still working as firefighters. There is NO effort to NOT attend a low income residence any slower than any call they go to on any level of income neighbourhood!
What has changed are a couple of things. Amalgamation joined 5 different independent fire services into one. This meant overlapping of some closely situated stations and some closed.
Over the course of time, close to 20 years now, only a few NEW stations have been built to accommodate growth in this city. It's not enough. Budgets overtime has reduced the amount of personnel hired to account for the city's growth.
Traffic also plays a part in this. More density has resulted in slower response times too. (pull right and STOP you drivers!!!!!)
Just to be clear, there is no inside conspiracy to say that there is a concerted effort by TFS to purposefully respond slower to lower income neighborhoods! They answer to more than a city agenda when it comes to safety standards and requirements to save life and property.
EDIT TO ADD: Higher density areas that are often associated with lower income areas are highly populated with high rises. This creates a unique challenge to first responders, particularly firefighters that have to reach a high level fire either climbing stairs or getting crews up in an elevator 4 or 5 at a time.
One example from the article:
"She recalled that last year there was a three-alarm fire on the 42nd floor of a building on Thorncliffe Park Drive. No one was seriously injured, “but with these type of response times it could be a different outcome,” she said. “So I think that’s why it’s important we understand what’s going on.”
What's important to understand is getting to this type of call is challenging to start with. A 3rd alarm fire on the 42nd floor will call approx. 15 to 18 apparatus for manpower/resources. This means that approx. 50-60 firefighters on scene to get up to 42 floors to fight a fire, rescue people and evacuate the rest is no small feat. It's not like pulling up to a house fire and running in to put it out!
On top of that, you deplete resources in the the city by that many trucks and firefighters to respond to calls elsewhere!! TFS has a protocol to re-position trucks when a big call happens to spread out manpower to needed areas. This doesn't happen in a snap and delays happen.
Star is reaching for a story here.So many factors could affect response time.Traffic,location,accessibility of caller,how busy a station is.Availability of fire trucks.
Haven’t read this report yet but through the years I’ve lived in Jane and Finch and I’ve had emergency services get lost finding the specific house. I believe firefighters/police/paramedics do their best to get to the scene as soon as possible but the mind boggling layout of many TCH developments around the city does not do them any favours.
I live in a low income area. 3-4 trucks attend the building across the street from me for false alarms at least every two days. This is neither justification nor excuse, but I cannot imagine the blow to morale that it must be for them to have to constantly show up here knowing that in all likelihood it will be another false alarm. I would certainly have a hard time rushing over there in light of that.
An investigative report from the Star this morning. They don't say what event triggered their investigation, but results raise more questions than answers. Expect to hear more about this in the days to come. Now that the information is out there, what is TFS and the city going to do about it? I would have liked to see more analysis by call type (fire, traffic incidents and medical emergencies). Paywall article, try PressReader with a Toronto Public Library card for online access. Article excerpt:
Toronto Fire Services takes longer to respond to emergency calls in disadvantaged areas of the city compared to other neighbourhoods, according to new data from the department, and councillors warn the pattern could be putting residents in vulnerable communities at risk.
A Star analysis of TFS data detailing more than 425,000 emergency calls across Toronto’s 158 neighbourhoods between 2020 and 2022 shows the department met its response time target at lower rates in areas of the city that have been designated as struggling with inequity.
The designated communities, officially known as “neighbourhood improvement areas” (NIAs) and “emerging neighbourhoods” (ENs), generally have higher portions of low-income and racialized communities, and newcomers.
According to the data, on average the department met its target for a key metric called “total response time” in just 70 per cent of incidents in the city’s 33 NIAs and 10 ENs. For neighbourhoods not identified as disadvantaged, the department met its target 80 per cent of the time. The National Fire Protection Association benchmark is 90 per cent.
B.s. I live in a low income building in Scarborough where these guys show up unnecessarily for the 6th false alarm in a 2 hour span. All gear on ready to fight a fire knowing it’s just dumb kids pulling an alarm. They all have my respect, the real heroes.
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