Moncton — It was incorrectly reported last week that the City of Moncton is disbanding its volunteer firefighter brigade, after more than 100 years of loyal service, due to budgetary concerns. As it turns out, this is the opposite of what was announced in the city’s 2016 budget.
The City of Moncton will in fact be laying off its professional firefighters as of the new fiscal year in favour of the city’s volunteers.
The press release, which was filled with typos, was supposed to say that the paid force would be phased out, saving the city approximately $17 million annually in fire and safety costs, and the volunteers would be kept for an economical $70,000 per annum.
“Look at the numbers,” said Mayor George LeBlanc. “We’d be stupid to remove the volunteers, who cost peanuts to train and outfit, when we can save millions by eliminating the money-pit that is the full-time force.”
LeBlanc explained that the volunteer firefighting tradition represented what the city itself is all about: dedication, ingenuity and grit. Which, he added, was more than he could say for the silver-spoon set of professionals, who have been unnecessarily soaking up municipal tax dollars by doing what they’ve trained and spent their whole working lives doing.
“The full-time crew will be welcomed back with open arms, should they choose to return as volunteers after seeking alternate employment,” said LeBlanc. “They will all receive excellent letters of recommendation for their resumés.”
The current average age of the volunteer force is 58. LeBlanc, however, claimed that the volunteer program will be actively recruiting younger members to fill out the ranks.
“It’s not like we have that many fires,” said LeBlanc. “The volunteers can totally handle it. In the meantime, this initiative will also act as a stop-gap effort toward stemming our youth unemployment problem. It will give them something constructive to do while waiting for the phone to ring with meaningful employment. It’ll keep them out of trouble.”
When asked whether the $17 million in budgetary savings was being allocated somewhere specific — perhaps to help cover the municipality’s commitment to the $91.5-million Downtown Centre — Mayor LeBlanc simply shrugged, saying, “It had to come from somewhere.”
Upon hearing of the mix-up, 40-year veteran volunteer Doug Fraser let out a low whistle. “Well, we’re going to have to start some sort of regular exercise regimen, like walking, and cut back on the extra-large triple-triples,” he chuckled. “I mean, I might’ve gone out on a call or two in the past year, to direct traffic usually. But we’ll do our best, that’s for sure. I just don’t know how many of us are going to physically be able to get out of bed in the event of an emergency in the wee hours of the morning.”