The Fort Frances Fire and Rescue Service will expanding its complement of volunteer firefighters from 16 to 20.
Fire Chief/CEMC Tyler Moffitt got approval to do so from town council Monday during its first municipal budget meeting of the year.
The cost outlined in the operating budget is $5,367, which will cover the cost for the four new firefighters to each undergo 75 hours of training and/or be paid for fire calls.
The budget also includes $12,000 for bunker gear for seven volunteer firefighters (including the additional four).
Moffitt told council the fire service needs more volunteers in order to meet changing regulations.
“The reason why I want four more volunteers to get up to 20 is basically health and safety,” he explained.
“There’s new changes coming with regards to mandatory certification in Ontario, whether you’re volunteer or full-time,” he added.
Moffitt said health and safety authorities are recommending 19-23 firefighters be able to respond to a fully-involved structure fire these days.
With a present staff of 16 volunteers (many of whom have jobs they can’t always leave, such as the gold mine north of Barwick) and six full-time firefighters, that’s a tough mandate to meet.
Another reason more volunteers are needed is that with the current staffing model, more volunteers means more people who can be trained to fill in for the full-timers.
“Not every one of my 16 volunteers want to train to fill in because they have full-time jobs also,” Moffitt noted.
On top of that, the town poses many fire and other emergency risks–whether it’s aged buildings (like much of the downtown), vacant buildings (like the mill), hazardous materials being transported across the border, to name three.
If anything were to happen, having as many trained firefighters as possible would be a smart idea, Moffitt said.
Yet another issue is the fact the complement of volunteers fluctuates all the time, with individuals leaving for different reasons, including age.
“I agree,” said Coun. Ken Perry. “I’ve been a proponent of more volunteers for the longest of time, and I’m not going to stop now and say, ‘We don’t need four more.'”
Coun. Wendy Brunetta agreed, noting “there’s a constant turnover” of volunteers.
“People join for one reason and then their life circumstances change and they leave,” she reasoned.
“Your constantly re-training.
“You probably don’t have a very long period of time where you actually have 20,” Coun. Brunetta added.
“You’re probably up and down quite often.”