Alberton council weighing fire response issue

FORT FRANCES—Alberton council is examining the issue of fire response outside of township limits after the Alberton fire department responded to three fires in Miscampbell in the last 18 months.
At council’s regular monthly meeting last Wednesday, Fire Chief Cory Jewell noted while the department wants to respond to fire emergencies, regulations prevent them from doing so legally.
“Our insurance for us isn’t covered when we’re out of our area,” he explained.
So if one of Alberton’s firefighters is injured on the job outside of the township, their insurance wouldn’t cover the claim.
Chief Jewell noted it’s also a question of municipal taxes—something Miscampbell residents don’t pay.
“They aren’t paying the taxes that we are,” he said. “You know you don’t have fire protection when you live there. That’s your choice.
“It isn’t that you don’t want to help but this is the age of insurance and liabilities,” noted Coun. Barb Cournoyer.
Coun. Doug Mitchell said more problems could arise if the Alberton fire truck was responding to a call in Miscampbell when another call came in from within Alberton township.
“You’re going to get mixed feelings from people on the fire department,” Chief Jewell said, noting firefighters are trained to respond to emergencies regardless of location.
“I can’t blame them for doing their job.”
Firefighters insisting on responding to calls from outside the township would have to do so as private citizens, he added.
“If you go, then you’re taking responsibility for yourself,” he stressed.
The calls for emergency response in Miscampbell have come from the dispatch office in Dryden, where the dispatcher is not necessarily familiar with the area and the distinction between the Township of Alberton and the unincorporated areas.
In Alberton, only property with a building on it is given a fire number. Calls without fire numbers could be located outside the township—or could be for a vacant property within Alberton itself.
Miscampbell resident Louis Bujold noted there was a volunteer fire department there several years ago but it folded due to a lack of participants.
“It’s such a small community, there just wasn’t enough interest. There’s only about 40 houses in Miscampbell,” he noted, adding many residents are older citizens.
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services offers funding for small volunteer fire departments so long as they meet certain requirements, such as monthly training sessions, Bujold explained.
When the interest faded out, so did the funding.
Bujold, who was the volunteer fire chief for three or four years, said he could understand the quandary the Alberton fire department is in.
“It’s a tricky situation because when somebody phones you, you want to help,” he acknowledged.
Alberton council will discuss the issue further at a special meeting scheduled for this Monday (Sept. 25) at 7 p.m.
(Fort Frances Times)