Fire chief asks council for new hall and more fighters

June 1, 2017   ·   0 Comments

Much of Town Council feel it’s a priority for the municipality to find funding for a new hall and eight additional firefighters for the Orangevile Fire Department.

By Mike Pickford

The Orangeville Fire Department is in need of a new home, says Fire Chief Ron Morden, who reminded Town Council anew on Monday that the municipal unit had outgrown its 46-year-old facility on Dawson Road.

In presenting his Fire Department Business Plan to councillors, Chief Morden highlighted a number of firefighter staffing and station needs he hopes to see the municipality tackle over the next few years. As well as potentially funding a brand new fire hall, Chief Morden asked that council once again consider adding to its full-time firefighting core in an attempt to bring the local department up to industry standards.

“The recommendations that you see here tonight are ones that I feel pose a potential significant impact to the community. Right now, as far as our statistics show, our fire response times in the evening are not meeting industry standards,” Chief Morden said.

While the department currently has 12 full-time firefighters – split into two platoons of six – on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, it relies on its 36 volunteer firefighters for emergencies between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The average response time to calls during the day is approximately 4.5 minutes, while evening response times stretch close to the 13-minute mark.

“The difference is due to full-time firefighters responding directly from the station as opposed to the volunteer firefighters waking from sleep and responding from their residences,” Chief Morden states in the report.

Emergency response times recognized in the industry are set by the National Fire Protection Association and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office. The standards state that firefighters should be assembled on the fire ground in a coordinated, rapid and consistent manner, with the first responders (four-person team) assembled within five minutes of the initial 911 call and a full response of 10-15 firefighters in place within 10 minutes.

A potential solution, according to the chief, is to add a night shift to the local department’s rota for full-time staff, a move he says should bring evening response times more in line with provincial standards.

Although in debating its budget last October council turned down a request for four new full-time firefighters in 2017 and another four in 2018, the Chief included a costing estimate should the municipality decide to bolster its fire unit over the coming years. For the Town to add a further eight firefighters by 2019, it would need to find an additional $805,000 in funding on top of the anticipated $3.3 million it will spend on fire services that year.

This wasn’t the first time Council had been made aware of the deteriorating condition of Orangeville’s fire hall. In 2015, an independent review by Scarborough-based fire protection consultants T.L Powell & Associates highlighted a number of problems with the building. In its report to Council, the company made 55 recommendations to improve the quality and level of its service. According to Chief Morden the “majority” of those recommendations have been addressed.

Coun. Gail Campbell asked that the topic of a new fire hall be discussed further behind closed doors at a later date.

“I’d like council to consider in the near future, during a private session, potential sites for a future fire hall. If we were to look into constructing a new fire hall, it would be really helpful for us to know where might be an appropriate location,” Coun. Campbell said.

With the future of policing once again a hot topic amongst council that night, Coun. Don Kidd suggested funding a new fire hall, a project that could set the Town back between $6 million and $8.5 million, would be “easy” should council vote to enter into an agreement with the OPP on June 12.

“I’d like to remind council if the Town did support changing police services over to the OPP then, with the $4.3 million annual savings, in two to three years we could get a new hall,” Coun. Kidd said. “I want every member of council to understand that if we’re going to stay with OPS, then that’s fine, but we know we’re going to need a new hall. It’s coming down the creek whether you like it or not. It could be this year, next year or the year after, but it’s coming, and $4.3 million in police savings could go a long way.”

Mayor Jeremy Williams retorted, “I’m sure we could build a hypothetical fire station with hypothetical savings, that’s for sure.”

Council voted to receive Chief Morden’s report and will consider his requests ahead of the 2018 municipal budget.

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