Ministry of the
Solicitor General

OFM - 04-03-12

Service Providers

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-03-12


Emergency Response


January 1998


Service Providers


Under Review


To identify considerations for determining the types of fire protection service providers are best suited for local municipalities.


There are no simple guidelines that set forth the requirements as to the type of personnel to be utilized for the fire department. The decision is one that must be made at the local level following a careful analysis of all pertinent factors, including the following:


  • availability of on-call or volunteer personnel
  • indicate whether or not a complement of on-call or volunteer personnel be could attracted to provide both initial and total fire attack teams
  • indicate whether or not the above personnel can be reliably depended upon, regardless of the time of day, day of the week, or time of the year  
  • financial resources of the community
  • frequently the financial resources of smaller communities dictates that the fire department be composed of entirely volunteer firefighters
  • salaries normally consume the largest percentage of a fire department budget, and available finances may only be sufficient to maintain a volunteer department, or in some cases a composite department
  • other municipalities with adequate financial resources may or may not elect to operate a fire department with full time firefighters  
  • frequency of incidents
  • the number of emergency responses will have a significant bearing on the type of personnel required for the department e.g. an average of four responses per week would normally be within the capabilities of volunteers, whereas an average of four responses per day would probably not.
  • in areas experiencing growth, that at one time provided a climate for a volunteer force, may now because of the increased demand for services, be in a position requiring the addition of full-time members to the department
  • there is no magic formula dictating when it is prudent or necessary to move from a volunteer to composite to full-time fire service. The determination must be made locally based on the ability of the department to perform at a level acceptable to the community. When the number of incidents increases beyond that level, a change in staffing would become evident.  
  • type of department preferred by the community
  • in some cases volunteer fire departments serve as a focal point of community activity, and the community is satisfied with the level of service provided
  • the success of the department is not determined by the type of personnel, but on their individual and collective ability to accomplish the department objectives
  • the community itself must determine, considering all factors, the type of personnel to be utilized in the fire department  
  • services expected from the fire department
  • the fire service is often expected to perform services other than fire fighting
  • many departments are involved in emergency medical assistance calls, which of themselves can more than double the number of emergency responses
  • other types of emergency responses will also affect the time demands on the firefighters
  • indicate whether or not the firefighters are expected to also be involved in fire prevention and public education activities  
  • expected intervention time
  • indicate whether or not the expected intervention time is normally before, or after flashover.
  • while the type of personnel will be a factor in this expectation, so also will, among other factors, be assembly time, travel distance, station location(s)
  • risk protected
  • indicate whether or not:
  • the municipality is sparsely settled with mainly residential areas
  • there are large congested areas
  • there are concentrated commercial and/or industrial areas
  • there are significant high-rise occupancies
  • there are generally recognized "older" areas and newer development areas
  • there are significant high-risk, high high-hazard occupancies  
  • expectations of assembled fire attack team
  • indicate whether or not it is expected that:
  • the fire will be contained to the room of origin, or
  • the fire will be contained to the floor area of origin, or
    the fire will be contained to the building of origin, and/or
  • limited rescue capabilities may be possible, and/or
  • only exposure protection is possible  
  • apparatus, equipment and technology
  • indicate whether or not the available apparatus and equipment:
  • are suitable and safe for carrying out the mandate of the department
  • are properly maintained
  • are replaced as required
  • incorporate available technology
  • are supplemented by adequate and appropriate apparatus and equipment

Codes, Standards and Best Practices:

Codes, Standards, and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.

See also PFSG
02-02-12 &
02-02- 03 Risk Assessment
04-12-13 Core Services
04-01-12 Selecting Fire Suppression Capability
04-02-01 Service Delivery Considerations