Town opts to hire sixth firefighter

Duane Hicks

The Town of Fort Frances will be hiring a sixth full-time firefighter.
Council decided yesterday afternoon to keep $75,444 in its 2017 operating budget to hire a firefighter starting April 1.
While several members of council expressed concern at the Feb. 6 budget meeting that the town had reduced the fire department to a certain staffing level in recent years, and hiring a sixth firefighter would be reversing that trend, Coun. Wendy Brunetta disagreed.
“Maybe we’ve cut too much because our fire department is not trained,” she noted.
“As a councillor, I’m not willing to accept that liability.
“I really think that we need to put some time and thought into actually making sure that our fire department is trained properly, and if it means hiring another firefighter so that we don’t accrue a lot of overtime to get the training done, then I think we should do that,” Coun. Brunetta added.
She reminded council that one full-time firefighter here will retire in 2021, at which time the sixth firefighter–who will be fully-trained by then–would replace that retiree–returning the full-time core to five.
“If one of our firefighters, untrained, did something at a scene and there was an unfortunate thing happen to that person–i.e., passed away–we would be sued probably for having a person there untrained doing something that they shouldn’t be doing,” Coun. Paul Ryan noted.
“I agreed with Coun. Brunetta,” he added. “I think we should get these people trained and this is the cheapest way to do it without really adding a person in the end.”
Coun. June Caul said hiring a sixth full-time firefighter “might cost us a little extra right now.”
“But people’s lives are a lot more important than this amount of money over a few years, as far as I am concerned,” she stressed.
“I personally feel that we need to protect the people of the Town of Fort Frances,” agreed Coun. John Albanese, noting $75,000 is worth the price to potentially save a life or lives.
“If we can protect the citizens of Fort Frances, I’m all for it.”
“After reading the reports and hearing the delegations that we had from the fire department and others, I feel it’s our duty to do this,” echoed Coun. Ryan.
“I feel it’s our due diligence to do this.”
As previously reported, a sixth full-time firefighter will allow both the Captain of Fire Prevention and Investigation and the Captain of Training to move back to straight days.
This, in turn, would double the fire department’s capacity to do fire inspections and fire safety education, as well as train two of the newer firefighters and volunteer ones.
There’s three pillars of service the fire department has to follow by law: public fire safety education, fire prevention inspections, and fire suppression services.
But with only five full-time firefighters on staff right now, the department has not had the time to address all of these areas and continue to respond to the many calls as it does.
The $75,444 in the 2017 operating budget covers the new firefighter’s wages and benefits for nine months in 2017 (April through December).
The cost to pay for the firefighter will go up about 25 percent in 2018–their first full year of employment.