Training officer Mike Pittaway welcoming Haldimand County new fire recruits earlier this year – Haldimand County photos

by Chris Pickup

Fed up with the province’s habit of downloading edicts to municipalities without providing funding to back them up, Haldimand council voted to send a written raspberry on the province’s latest effort.

Draft regulations on mandatory firefighter certification, training and community risk assessment was the focus of county displeasure at the February 27 council in committee. With the bulk of the new regulations proposed to come into force January 2019, there is no surety of provincial funding to back it up, leaving Haldimand with an estimated additional cost of $152,200.

“There’s a problem with the province making rules and not sending any money along with it,” observed Councillor Leroy Bartlett. “We have volunteer firemen and they have to put in more hours to be certified. It could make it more difficult to get volunteers.”

Haldimand’s fire chief Jason Gallagher noted that was the fear in other municipalities. “We need to spread the training out so we’re not overwhelmed.”

Haldimand County Fire Department (HCFD) is currently using a curriculum based training program. However, they have only taught to the practical skills Haldimand needs and uses. Firefighters in Haldimand work in pairs and have not needed the skills for sole firefighters.

“The commitment we ask of our firefighters currently is extensive; with the new regulations an increase in training hours will be required to ensure our firefighters stay competent in the NFPA standards,” a staff report notes.

Some current firefighters can be “grandfathered” in because of their knowledge and experience, however fire investigators, technical rescue (e.g. water and ice rescue), fire dispatch and hazardous material personnel cannot. They must all be certified by January 1, 2020. The HCFD performs technical water and ice training every two years but no certificate is currently issued.

Mayor Ken Hewitt was directed to write a letter to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correction Services to express concerns with additional costs for fire services, and lack of funding from the province.

As a final comment, councillor Bernie Corbett congratulated Gallagher on the 24 hour service the fire department extended in the recent possible flooding, and for calling in the icebreaker.

“Without that we would have had the 2009 flooding. I have received many favourable comments,” he said.