Fire chiefs sound alarm over new training
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | March 1, 2018
Local fire chiefs are worried about the cost of proposed regulations under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act that will require firefighters to do out-of-town training and certification.
The total hit in Highlands East could be $60-70,000. Dysart estimates a $50,000 annual budget increase. “We’ve spent close to $10,000 for four certifications in the past,” said Chris Baughman, acting fire Chief of Highlands East, during a recent council meeting.
The volunteer department is comprised of about 50 firefighters. Baughman estimates that 75 per cent of them aren’t certified but are qualified because they’ve completed the necessary training to meet the demands of the job. The provincial certification course costs $1,800, said Baughman. In addition, the municipality will have to pay the trainee’s hourly wage, travel costs and a week’s worth of other prerequisite courses.
The requirements for new firefighters will come into effect Jan. 1, 2019. They will have two years to complete the certification. As for existing firefighters, only those who were provided the opportunity in 2014 and chose not to certify at that time can be grandfathered in. The requirement for the rest will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
“This is a shift from the previously understood position, so it is recommended that municipalities include a request for a more open approach to grandfathering all in responding to the draft mandatory certification regulation,” states the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) on its website. Baughman believes the new demands could lead to resignations.
“All our existing members who are qualified, are they now going to have to do the provincial exam or just skills testing? If that’s the case, we have older, more experienced guys who took their 100-hour course in the ‘90s that’s no longer available or relevant, and they will be starting [fresh] again. I don’t think they’re going to want to do it,” he told council.
He described the draft of the legislation as “very vague” and said he will be providing input to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services after the next council meeting.
As a result of the proposed regulations, Dysart is requesting the Office of the Fire Marshal provide free training and online testing for all departments. They also want more time before the changes are implemented. “I think it’s the cart before the horse,” said fire Chief Mike Iles during a Feb. 20 meeting.
In his report, he said, “It will be impossible to meet the minimum training standards (for all non-internship programs) as set out in the proposed regulation within the proposed timeframe. The ability to supply universal training to all fire departments (at limited expense) should be established before any proposed start dates for the legislation is determined.” Algonquin Highlands fire Chief Mike Cavanagh told The Highlander it’s difficult to determine the cost impact at this time.
“It will have an impact across the fire services, however the true costs are tough to estimate and may not be known for a few years as one of the programs isn’t even developed yet,” said Cavanagh, referring to testing for the standard on technical rescue.
However, the positive impact is it provides “for consistency across the province.” The township will send comments to the province after receiving a presentation from Cavanagh on Friday (March 2). Mike Bekking, interim fire chief of Minden Hills, will present a report to council when he returns from holidays at the end of March. According to AMO, there are “significant fiscal, risk management, timing and technical aspects that require local consideration and comment.”
Their comments to the ministry will be available in early March. The ministry is seeking public feedback until March 11.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.