FONOM calls for changes to proposed firefighter regulations

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PARRY SOUND—The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) has raised its concerns over proposed new firefighter regulations and is calling on the province to amend these regulations to include eliminating mandatory firefighter certification and community risk assessments. FONOM feels these new regulations will negatively impact fire services in municipalities, particularly volunteer fire departments, and could mean some would end up dissolving.

“We had a lot of feedback from municipalities concerning the operational and cost impacts of the new firefighting regulations and community safety plans,” said Al Spacek, president of FONOM, after the group’s annual general conference in Parry Sound last week. “This is the initiative being led by full-time firefighters and, in essence, what it would mean is that volunteer firefighters would have to take the time, effort and probably the costs to go through the certification process and municipalities would have to come up with the money to allow these volunteer firefighters to go through certification on many things they are already trained in, such as hooking up to a fire hydrant.”

“We already know that our volunteer firefighters are dedicated members of the community and volunteer their time and effort to fulfill the duty of being a firefighter. What is being proposed is just more bureaucracy.”

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“We as an organization (FONOM) passed a resolution at our conference on this issue opposing the legislation and calling for amendments to be made,” said Mr. Spacek. 

Gore Bay council also voiced their concerns on the issue at a meeting Monday. “We have received information concerning the new fire regulations proposed for all fire departments and this relates to concerns we raised at our previous meeting,” said Mayor Ron Lane. He said it appears that volunteer firefighters already in place would be grandfathered in and would not have to go through the mandatory training certification.  

However, Councillor Jack Clark said, “generally speaking they seem to be more positive. But as you read more on the proposal there are still a lot of concerns to be raised.”

“The main issue is that volunteer firefighters have to go through mandatory certification, is going to go away on a temporary basis with current firefighters being grandfathered in,” said Councillor Clark. “But when new firefighters come on board, things are not to be as rosy and they will have to go through this (mandatory training certification).”

“There is also a risk assessment that all municipalities have to go through,” said Councillor Clark. “This (risk assessment) is more detailed than the current one in place and in the end it may have some impact on insurance. They are asking fire departments to put in place a response time that the department will respond to fires. They say to alleviate some of the concerns that have been raised (fire departments) can suggest an average time for response and not be liable. Maybe this will be the case and maybe it won’t.”

FONOM at its annual conference last week passed a resolution indicating the Ontario government’s proposed regulations under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act 1997 that would see mandatory certification and training for firefighters and the implementation of community risk assessments for all fire services, but feel these proposed regulations are beyond the capability and affordability of many municipalities particularly rural communities that depend on a volunteer fire department. 

FONOM shares Ontario’s vision to keep communities safe through public and firefighter safety measures, however, these proposed changes would arguably not result in a safer or improved fire service, the resolution notes, and requiring mandatory certification requirements for new and existing firefighters currently employed will put volunteer fire departments at risk of closure. New mandates forced onto municipalities must be accompanied with adequate funding supports and resources.

“Therefore be it resolved that (FONOM) requests amendments to the proposed regulations under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA) that would include eliminating mandatory firefighter certification and community risk assessments, as they will negatively impact fire services in municipalities, particularly voluntary fire departments. Be it further resolved that a copy of this resolution be sent to the premier of Ontario, minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, minister of Municipal Affairs, Northeastern MPs and MPPs, leaders of the opposition and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. 

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