Province makes changes to address draft firefighting regulations concerns

GORE BAY—Although it may not alleviate all the concerns that have been raised by local fire departments and councils in regards to draft fire regulations proposed by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, some measures have been provided for that makes the proposed changes easier to  handle, says a local representative.

“You have to look at it positively, they have made it an easier pill to swallow,” stated Mike Addison, Gore Bay fire chief and deputy fire coordinator in response the controversial new firefighting regulations brought forward earlier this spring. “I’d like nothing better than to have all my firefighters having gone through all the training being required by the province, it would provide for further safety. But we are volunteer firefighters and don’t necessarily have the resources and time to do everything the province wants.”

Mr. Addison said that he attended a recent Ontario Fire Marshall Office Northeast Fire Education conference, “and it appears the province has backed down a little on the original regulations they put in place and standards. For example they are going to let fire departments grandfather in those that have been on the fire department and have taken the training courses previously.”

“This means, for instance, I will have another opportunity to grandfather more people in under the current firefighting course standards who have taken the training in say the past three or four years,” said Mr. Addison. “These firefighters will remain qualified. They have backed down and are looking at putting the new regulations in place July 1, 2019.”

“What this means is that after July 1, 2019 anybody who starts as a firefighter has to be enrolled in the new training course,” said Mr. Addison. “But if you are a firefighter already you don’t have to go through all the proposed new training standards, unless you want to go onto to become a captain or fire chief. Then you need to meet the new qualifications. So as a fire chief I can remain in this capacity for ever.”

“It may mean it will be more difficult to entice new people to be a volunteer on a fire department,” said Mr. Addison. “On the other hand, some people may feel it will become a more professional service and might be more attractive to bring in new firefighters.

“I see both good and bad with all of this,” said Mr. Addison. “Our fire department is already doing the training that is being required and testing internally. Testing in the future may mean extra dollars in bringing in someone to bring someone here to provide the testing for firefighters.”

“There are two other components to this, the proposed risk assessment is being delayed,” said Mr. Addison. He explained in this fire departments would have to take a look at the community and list what major risks are posed in the community, for instance the Gore Bay Volunteer Fire Department would be looking at the local airport, marina, Manitoulin Transport and the downtown core. “It had been proposed we would have to identify all the potential high risk areas for fires and what we would do to handle fires in these areas. “The other thing has to do with fire departments reporting response times (and upholding standard times set by the province). I raised the issue with the Fire Marshall that for those areas that have full-time fire departments they can be out and respond to a fire in a minute. But we are volunteers and they have to recognize that we have to leave work or travel from home to get to the fire hall and then respond to a fire. The fire marshall gave suggestions on how we can report on this in the future, listing what we feel would be our average time and that we do our best in responding, but not guaranteeing the time listed.”
Mr. Addison said the  province is also looking at providing additional opportunities for firefighting training in areas like North Bay,  Timmins and Sudbury so that firefighters don’t have to travel down south to take training courses.

Mr. Addison noted, “overall the feedback at the conference was good, better than had been and one of the reasons I think the changes were made is because of the pressure put on them by the municipalities, the province has backed off a little and have made this more palatable.”