Municipal Fire Services in Canada: A Preliminary Analysis
This bulletin examines trends in fire service spending and the incidence of reported fires in Canada. It finds that the number of firefighters and spending on fire services is increasing even as the incidence of reported fires is decreasing based on available data.
The most complete data is for the province of Ontario where between 1997 and 2012 the number of firefighters increased by 36.3%, while the reported number of fires fell by 41.4%. Part of the explanation for this inverse relationship is the different functions and activities that firefighters carry out. Evidence from Ontario for the period from 2000 to 2012 shows that the number of fire-related calls fell by 15.3% while non-fire related calls increased by 23.8%.
Data limitations preclude comparisons between municipalities or conclusions about how to better control the growth in fire service costs in Canada. Still, there is evidence that these expenditures are growing independently of the incidence of reported fires and that municipal governments ought to look at how fire services are delivered as part of any efforts to better control overall spending.