Volunteer, part-time Cornwall firefighters, new education position: consultant

Steve Thurlow of Dillon Consulting makes his presentation of the Fire Master Plan March 30, 2015 to Cornwall city council. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The consultant working on Cornwall’s Fire Master Plan says the city has made “significant success” since an Ontario Fire Marshal review of the service in 2013.

Steve Thurlow of Dillon Consulting presented the plan to council Monday afternoon, which makes 35 recommendations for fire suppression, prevention and education, and firefighter training.

Dillon Consulting has done fire plans for other municipalities including Oshawa, Bradford and Smiths Falls.

Those recommendations include adding volunteer and part-time firefighters in order to enhance the depth of response to fires in the city. “What we’re looking at is a pool of firefighters, whether it’s on a scheduled basis or a deployment, callback basis,” Thurlow said. But the consultant on non-committal on what model to go to, saying it’s up to the municipality.

He criticized the current service level for not tracking how many firefighters are actually arriving at any given fire, known as assembly on scene. “(You want that) consistently for all of the calls you go to…we don’t have that data,” he said.

The consultant also believes the two fire stations on Second Street and Fourth Street are “too close together” within the city limits and the city should explore adding a third station, an option that has been explored by the city in the past.

Among the other recommendations are adding a vision statement for the department as well as having the chief make annual reports to council and an annual review of fire-related bylaws.

For staffing, there’s a recommendation to add a dedicated position of a Public Education Officer, a job currently shared by the Fire Prevention Officers. Thurlow says education needs to be targeted, especially to Cornwall’s 20 per cent senior population. The Ontario average is 15 per cent. “Our best way (to prevent fires) is not to have a fire in the first place,” Thurlow told council. He equated it to teaching people to use seat belts, which stated in the 1970s.

“We’ve identified it as a new position,” Thurlow said. “I suggest the majority (of municipalities) have it (the position) or are moving toward it.”

Some of those recommendations were also part of the OFM review, though Thurlow says the service has made “great strides” in the nearly two years since the review. Thurlow’s assessment contrasts the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association Local, which says little had been done since the OFM review.

Thurlow says, while the fire service is doing well at training on a technical level, the department could use use some help on the “human behaviour level” especially for officer and senior officer positions.

A decision on the Fire Master Plan won’t be made until the April 13, 2015 council meeting.

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