A new study suggests taxpayers in Ontario are paying for more firefighters to fight fewer fires.

The new report from the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank, claims that the number of firefighters in Ontario rose significantly over the past 16 years despite a dramatic drop in the number of fires.

The study, titled “Municipal Fire Services in Canada: A Preliminary Analysis,” takes a close look at the growing number of firefighters in Canada, in relation to escalating costs for fire services.

“Firefighters play an important role in protecting our communities, but Ontario taxpayers are paying for more firefighters to fight fewer fires, raising important questions about local government spending on fire services,” said Charles Lammam, study co-author and director of fiscal studies at the Fraser Institute in a release.

The study found, for instance, that the number of reported fires in Ontario fell by 41.4% from 1997 to 2012. During that time, the number of firefighters increased by 36.3%.

Researchers noted in the report that the role of firefighters has changed over time, yet the reason for the marked increase in Ontario firefighters remains unclear. Firefighters are now more often dealing with non-fire calls such as medical emergencies and vehicle crashes. For example, only 9.9% of response calls in Toronto in 2013 were for actual fires.

Over the 16-year period, the number of firefighters in Canada rose to 32,400 from 25,900. That amounts to a 25.1% increase, outpacing the country’s overall population growth, which is 16.2%. Unfortunately, with national fire data after 2002, it’s not known whether Canada is experiencing the same trend being seen in Ontario.

“The dearth of available fire data restricts the ability to scrutinize the dramatic rise in firefighter numbers across the country and assess whether Canadians are getting good value for their tax dollars when it comes to fire service spending,” Lammam said.

“The evidence suggests that the number of firefighters and fire service spending is growing independent of the number of fires. Municipalities interested in controlling spending could further examine the delivery of fire services.”

The report suggests municipalities interested in controlling fire service spending could examine the delivery of fire services.

Source: Study Suggests Ontario Taxpayers Paying More Firefighters to Fight Fewer Fires | (CFPL AM) AM 980