“If we adhere (to these training requirements), I don’t see how we can continue to operate a fire department,” Addington Highlands Fire Chief Casey Cuddy told Council at its regular meeting Tuesday in Flinton.
Cuddy was responding to an Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) memo on proposed mandatory training requirements for volunteer firefighters being proposed by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
“I understand the value of training,” Cuddy said. “But to continue the level of service we provide, you’re looking at 25 to 37 days of training at the fire college without exams.
“We can’t possibly make the deadline (later this year).”
Cuddy said that while some firefighters can be grandfathered in the requirements, (about 75 per cent of the Kaladar members), very few of the younger recruits can. And, he said, a force needs younger recruits for their physical abilities and to continue on as older members retire.
“Many of the younger members also have young families and jobs that require their time,” he said. “They can’t just tell their employers that they need to take 30 days off to go to the fire college.
“And even if they could, the fire college is booked solid for most of the courses they’d required.
“There are about 40,000 volunteer firefighters in Ontario and the courses can only take 40 at a time.”
“This would jeopardize our ability to provide fire protection to our sparsely populated area that has lots of Crown Land in it,” said Reeve Henry Hogg.
Cuddy said they try to do as much training as they can, and they use facilities in Napanee and Kingston when they can but that’s not always an option.
“It’s not like we have facilities where we can light a house on fire for training,” he said.
For example, he said, a fire department has to have pumper operators but just in order to take that course, other courses are required.
“The pumper course is five days but you can’t take that until you have firefighter 1 and firefighter 2,” he said. “Then you have to have the hazmat (hazardous materials) course and that’s another seven days.
“The fire college just can’t accommodate all that.”
“So, it’s not just timing, it’s content,” said Coun. Tony Fritsch.
AMO is asking rural municipalities to draft responses to the proposed changes. Those changes were developed by the Ministry, the Ontario Fire Marshall executive and staff, the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association, the Ontario Fire Chiefs Association, fire chiefs from full-time, composite and volunteer services, Toronto Fire Services with only an AMO staff member and one lower-tier CAO for the municipal perspective.
“This is just another urban vs. rural thing,” said Dep. Mayor Helen Yanch. “They keep throwing up these rules that have nothing to do with us.”
“I think it requires a change to lesser qualifications for smaller volunteer departments in rural municipalities,” said Fritsch.
Council passed a resolution, based on Cuddy’s recommendation, that he and North Frontenac Fire Chief Eric Korhonen draft a joint response.
Denbigh waste site
The application to re-open the Denbigh landfill is still very much on Coun. Bill Cox’s mind.
“Can we ask the Ministry when we can get an answer on this?” Cox asked Council. “It’s been 10 years, we’ve spent a lot of money and we’ve done everything they’ve asked.”
The Township is still looking at a few more changes to its landfills, including new hours and possibly “dump cards.”
But the information won’t be on the newly-approved newsletter that’s set to go out with tax bills shortly.
“We’re researching dump cards and it will be provided in correspondence at the time any decision is made,” said CAO/Clerk-Treasurer Christine Reed.
Current landfill hours are on the newsletter but changes such as requiring cards require Ministry permission and will be posted if approved.