VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – How long are you willing to wait for the Vancouver Fire Department to respond to your call for help? There are worries the city of Vancouver’s new budget could come with some dire consequences.

Firefighters are concerned they don’t have enough staff to keep up with the demand for service.

Vancouver Firefighters’ Union President Gord Ditchburn tells us call volumes are going up, yet budget cuts two years ago eliminated 20 staff positions. He says that’s effectively pulled two trucks out of service.

“You can have all the trucks you want, but if you don’t have people to operate them and come to the scene of an incident, what good are the trucks?” wonders Ditchburn.

He argues those positions have to be restored, especially with emergency calls up 30 per cent in the last decade. Ditchburn says in that same time period, staffing levels have dropped just under 10 per cent.

“You see an increase in population, and yet you’ll see staffing going the other way.  At some point, something’s going to give,” contends Ditchburn. “The public — they’re the ones who are going to suffer.”

He suggests slower response times could mean the difference between life and death. “Not trying to alarm anybody, but it presents a real problem in that if a truck is unavailable, you’re having to wait for a longer period of time for another truck to come in to answer that call.”

Ditchburn doesn’t think three new positions funded in Vancouver’s 2012 operating budget are enough. Vancouver Green Councillor Adriane Carr tried on Monday to amend the budget to further boost support for the fire department by raising property taxes. Her proposal was rejected by a 10-1 vote.

“I think there are some threats to public safety and I hope to goodness I’m wrong,” says Carr. “I hope to goodness that in the next budget we can see a lift to that budget because it needs it.”