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politics

Firefighters Are Not Gravy!

Toronto firefighters' union takes to YouTube to assert their necessity.

In anticipation of next year’s city budget negotiations, Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Local 3888 put up a YouTube video Tuesday to remind the public that their positions are essential. Backed by an urgent orchestral soundtrack reminiscent of a cinematic battle scene, the video presents a photo montage of Toronto Fire Services (TFS) crew members in action; superimposed onto these images are captioned statistics.

“For 2010, TFS had 276,729 unit responses,” reads one caption. “Fire Underwriters Survey states we are currently staffed at 2/3 of the standard compliment of staff for Fire Code enforcement,” says another. The city needs more fire fighters, these stats imply. Not less.

The video came out the day after a Toronto Star report of TFS lags in dispatch time, which stated that Toronto trucks average eight minutes or more to get to a fire call when the standard is six minutes or under. Fire chief William Stewart attributed that service gap, in part, to the department’s funding situation.

“With what’s been going on in the city over the last few months, and with several negative comments made about our profession in the last few months, we felt this was one way for us to address the concerns that we had,” says Damien Walsh, vice-president of TPFF Local 3888, told us today. Following interest from a number of the union’s members, Walsh says the video was put together over the last few weeks.

Who are they hoping sees it? “Well certainly our members, and the public,” says Walsh. “We’d like to think both.”

City firefighters have been uneasy since July’s City-contracted KPMG core service review, which eyed TFS as one of the first services to face potential downsizing. It’s what led them to hire former Rob Ford advisor Nick Kouvalis to help with their messaging, in anticipation of layoffs in the 2012 budget. Now, that possibility feels even nearer. While TPFF Local 3888 isn’t expecting their small social-media push to become an overnight viral sensation (it is devoid of cats, after all), it’s become the group’s collective shout in the dark.

“It certainly provides a morale boost for our members who feel that they have been a little underappreciated in the city lately,” says Walsh. “And we see it as an educational tool for the public for them to be able to see what it is that firefighters do.”

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