Emo town council voted to enter into an Automatic Aid Agreement, which would provide fire services to Manitou First Nations, in the event of an emergency in that community. Emo joins Chapple, LaVallee, Alberton and other local jurisdictions, to uphold the agreement.
Manitou First Nations had approached its neighbouring municipality of Chapple for a fire protection agreement while they are working to rebuild member- ship in their fire department, according to Alberton Chapple Emo LaVallee Fire Chief Tyrell Griffith.
“They have some equipment there and they have a decent pumper truck but they just don’t have dedicated trained members right now at this point in time, but they’re working towards that,” he said. “The hope is, that this is just something in place to be able to affect a rescue or mitigate the damage from an emergency, using our personnel.”
Emo and surrounding municipalities have been included in the agreement because Mutual Aid of Ontario does not currently extend to First Nations land, which is considered a federal jurisdiction, said Griffith. Mutual Aid allows neighbouring services to enter agreements to share services, when there is a capacity to help.
The Automatic Aid Agreement would allow jurisdictions named in the agreement to respond to fires in Manitou when requested, but Manitou would
be billed for the service, in addition to a monthly retainer paid to the Chapple Fire Service to cover administration costs.
Services signed on aren’t under obligation to respond, and can recall crews if calls run too long for volunteers, or an emergency emerges in their home jurisdiction, similar to a Mutual Aid agreement, noted Griffith.
“It just gives us the ability, that if we don’t have our own emergency, and if we can handle sending a couple people or send a truck there to help, then we have the ability to,” he said. Without the agreement, they would be unable to help due to insurance restrictions.
Just like in Mutual Aid, Emo reserves the right to recall the service, if an emergency begins in Emo, or the service is too lengthy for the volunteer crew.
The agreement was written using clauses from similar agreements from across the province, adapted to suit local needs, said Griffith.
Although all councillors were strongly in favour of the agreement, to show support for a neighbouring community, there was some concern expressed that it lacked an end date. Councillors Lincoln Dunn, Warren Toles and Harrold Boven expressed that either term limits, with the ability to renew, or regular check-ins would be beneficial to both sides.
According to Griffith, an earlier draft had included a 12 month term, but it was removed in case Manitou needed more time.
“Our worry was, the agreement would end before they were ready,” he said. “That we’d be 13 months into a 12 month agreement, and a call would come, but we would have to say no because our paperwork wasn’t in order.”
Tyrel said that a time clause could be added with the other parties afterwords, but that there was an urgency to signing the agreement quickly, because the season for forest and grass fires is quickly approaching.
“I wouldn’t want this to be tabled for another month to another council meeting, and for us to be one phone call away from having to tell them no, I’m sorry, we can’t respond,” he said.
The councillors agreed with the urgency of the signing, and voted to adopt it, with a request that Griffith negotiate regular check-ins with Manitou, as they rebuild a force.
“The hope is that they would get members out, they would get trained, and they would have the ability to have their own emergency response team. And at that point, we would look at something more like the Mutual Aid and they may even look at joining the Mutual Aid Plan of Ontario,” said Griffith. “As it is right now, this is a good fit temporarily to be able to provide some much needed remediation, should something happen.”