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Town of Banff seeks standalone fire chief position

“Administration is recommending a decoupling of the director of protective services and fire chief position to meet the demands and workload of the division."
Banff Fire Chief Silvio Adamo makes pancakes at the annual fire prevention week pancake breakfast at the Banff Fire Hall in October. JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

BANFF – The Town of Banff’s protective services department may be revamped to include a standalone fire chief position.

Administration proposes to have the full-time fire chief separate from the position of director of protective services and to hire a full-time FireSmart training officer to meet increasing workload demands.

Silvio Adamo, Banff’s current fire chief and director of protective services, said there have been many changes and an increase in demand for service across all departments in the division over the past few years, making the current structure unsustainable.

“Administration is recommending a decoupling of the director of protective services and fire chief position to meet the demands and workload of the division,” he said in report going to council at upcoming service review deliberations.

In 2015, the fire department, emergency management, municipal enforcement and management of the RCMP contract merged into the protective services division. Currently, the division has 58 people on staff at peak demand.

Unlike Canmore, Jasper and Whistler, Banff’s fire department structures does not have a standalone fire chief.

The department includes the chief, who while splitting his time as head of protective services, still remains operational responding to emergencies. In addition, there are two full-time deputy chiefs, a fire prevention officer, an administrator and 34 paid-on-call firefighters.

Under the proposal, a stand-alone fire chief would be paid $127,500 in wages and benefits in 2023 with an April start date, jumping to $164,000 in 2024 and $167,280 in 2025.

Wages and benefits for a FireSmart and training officer, which is being pitched because Banff’s FireSmart program continues to grow, would be $82,500 in 2023 with an April start date and projected to be $112,750 in 2024 and $115,005 in 2025.

While the fire department’s full-time emergency response structure has not changed since the mid-1990s, emergency call volumes have more than tripled during that time period, with the department on track to respond to more than 700 emergency calls by the end of this year alone.

The department trains 50 weeks per year as well as organizes additional training on various weekends.

“The increase in emergency response and following emerging best practices and certified training continues to put increased demand on the deputy chiefs’ time,” said Adamo.

“One of our many recruitment and retention strategies is to offer new and engaging training opportunities for our paid-on-call members.”

Significant changes on the municipal enforcement front over the past several years have also increased the division’s workload – first with the introduction of a two-person traffic safety unit and more recently with the roll out of the visitor paid parking and resident parking permit system.

As for emergency management, Adamo said this has become a more significant and ongoing program that all municipalities must take seriously.

He said new legislation requires municipalities to invest more time and effort into training and exercises to be prepared for more frequent and longer duration emergencies.

“Banff and Canmore are working on a regional framework and plan that will provide greater emergency management capacity and enable both communities to work more effectively together,” said Adamo.

“Proactive mitigation and preparedness should be the path moving forward that requires more time and effort.”

Over the past few years, administration has been clear with its intention to ask for a full-time regional emergency management position shared with the Town of Canmore or a half-time Banff specific position. The start date was to align with the completion of the regional emergency management framework and plan, which is estimated to be completed in late May 2023.

If council approved a dedicated fire chief position, Adamo said administration would postpone the emergency management position request to evaluate the capacity of the director’s role to conduct emergency management work at the coordinator level.