KAGAWONG—The Billings Volunteer Fire Department has been without its main pumper truck for several weeks and needs a replacement as soon as possible. This was the message two representatives of the fire department delivered to the township council at a meeting last week.
“The township will need to budget for future requirements,” stated Randy Peters, at the council meeting. “Unfortunately we have two choices, either we shore things up quickly or someone will say we have to do it and there will be no choice. With the truck down we are not currently meeting the (provincial) fire code regulations or health and safety standards.”
Mr. Peters and the township fire chief Merv Gilchrist presented council with a second quarter report on this year’s activities thus far. The fire fighters have responded to four fire calls so far this year. “The fourth fire we responded to was an illegal dump fire in Rockville. We had limited resource (firefighters) capacity beside the fire apparatus and we were barely able to get the fire truck there and back and the truck has been out of service since then.”
“This truck was purchased with the best intentions, but we have had five major issues with it over the past three years,” continued Mr. Peters. “When you look at purchasing used fire trucks this is the kind of thing that can happen. I understand this is a substantial capital layout. Most Island fire departments are going with new apparatus.”
Mr. Gilchrist pointed out there are various financing options the municipality can look at for purchasing a new fire truck, for instance loans––taking on as many years as is required to pay it off.
As well, the firefighters bunker suits and breathing apparatus have to be replaced. “We’re antiquated as far as equipment is concerned,” said Mr. Peters. He pointed out a new fire truck will cost about $160,000 minimum.
“If we need to do interior suppression at a fire everyone has to have access to the bunker suits and breathing apparatus and when I say eight are needed, this is the bare minimum we can have on hand at our fire department to meet minimum standards,” said Mr. Peters.
“I have been on the fire department for over 20 years, but with the truck out of service and fire and health and occupational safety requirements not being met, I’m pretty nervous,” said Mr. Peters. “If we can’t meet the safety rules or respond to a fire properly and something happens, they (province) will come after the township and the firefighters as well.”
“I’m sure you are aware, municipalities can’t currently get grants for fire trucks, with the JEPP (Joint Emergency Preparedness Program) funding gone, maybe other grants will become available through the province,” said Billings Mayor Austin Hunt. “But right now municipalities can’t get grants for any type of road equipment. You said other financing options could be looked at and I think this is the best thing we could do.”
“We can’t tell you what we can do, until our budget is done, it hasn’t been finalized as of yet,” added Mr. Hunt. “But even with budget constraints, obviously we need to look at what can be done now and in the future. We appreciate the work all of you are doing.”
“The truck is definitely a priority,” said Mr. Peters.
Mr. Gilchrist said with the current downed truck the plumbing on it is deteriorating, there are several leaks, and the transmission went out on it.
“The leaks have been repaired twice and the valves are leaking,” said councillor Tom Imrie, who pointed out at the Rockville fire the truck wouldn’t change gears.”
The truck has been down for about three weeks, said Mr. Gilchrist. He explained neighbouring municipal fire departments, namely Gore Bay, M’Chigeeng and Central Manitoulin, as part of the mutual fire aid agreement among the fire departments, had been notified of the current situation and would have responded if needed in case of a fire in Billings.
“As said we will take this issue serious and look into the options available,” said Mr. Hunt.