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  1. #1
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    Angry Firefighter Shortage -- Sudbury Ontario Canada

    Found this article in the Sudbury Star, Sudbury is in the northern part of Ontario.


    Firefighters needed in Valley: ex-chief

    Testifying at fire inquest, Rob Browning says full-time force needed to prevent future tragedies

    By Harold Carmichael/The Sudbury Star

    Greater Sudbury’s former fire chief told a coroner’s inquest Thursday that Valley East needs a full-time fire service.
    “I have a great respect for the Valley East fire service,” said Rob Browning. “But in terms of reactivity and efficiency, a full-time service is where they need to be.”
    Browning, who is now the fire chief in Kitchener, was testifying at an inquest examining a fatal fire in Hanmer last year.
    The April 22, 2001, blaze on Roy Street in Hanmer killed Asha-Jade McLean, 3, her brother Ellias, 4, and their great-grandmother Pearl Shaw, 75. The inquest was called after many in the community questioned whether the fire service, which is staffed mainly by volunteer firefighters, responded properly to the fire. The goal of an inquest is not to lay blame, but to develop recommendations designed to prevent similar tragedies.
    Browning was fire chief when the City of Greater Sudbury was created in 2001. Among his responsibilities was to oversee the merger of seven fire departments, including Valley East.
    Browning said that in the early part of 2001, there were “significant deficiencies in some of the services, but Valley East wasn’t the one that would (have) caught my attention.”
    Those deficiencies included safety issues such as proper helmets and bunker suits to meet safety standards
    Browning said that the amalgamation process is “probably still a work in progress.”
    He also told the inquest that he presented several options to Greater Sudbury councillors during the 2002 budget process to improve the level of fire service in the old city of Valley East.
    Those included:
    - adding two full-time fire prevention officers to improve the level of fire safety in the community;
    - adding a full-time fire training officer to boost the amount of annual training Valley East firefighters receive;
    - hiring four full-time firefighters to have an adequate response Monday to Friday during business hours, a time when the community’s volunteer firefighters tend not to be available due to work commitments; and
    - hiring 11 full-time firefighters to have four firefighters on hand at the central Val Therese station 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    Out of the 18 new employees that Browning sought, council only approved hiring a trainer.
    In 2001, Valley East had five full-time firefighters, one full-time firefighter/fire prevention officer and 45 volunteer firefighters. Browning also defended the firefighters who tackled the fatal fire.
    “I and my senior staff have a responsibility to hold the fire service together despite what happened in this particular fire,” he said. “They were upset.
    “They were hurt by the reaction in the community for what they did. They thought they did their best effort.”


  2. #2
    Senior Member Temptaker's Avatar
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  3. #3
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    The word ' volunteer ' goes a long way..from Boy Scout Leader, to firefighter. Most volnuteer's aren't in it for just the curling! We all try to do our best with what we have up here, that includes gear and training. Please keep the list posted as to the outcome of the inquest. Tks, OTTIS

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    Default Inquest Update

    Here is the latest on the inquest, the city seems to be doing their best to cover themselves.

    From the Sudbury Star, Sept 17, 2002



    Fire department not to blame for deadly fire: consultant

    Former fire chief paid by city to testify at inquest

    By Denis St. Pierre/The Sudbury Star

    The Greater Sudbury Fire Department is not to blame for a deadly house fire in Valley East last year, a witness hired by the city told a coroner’s inquest Monday.
    Don Pamplin, a fire protection consultant and former fire chief in Vancouver, testified Monday at the coroner’s inquest into the April 22, 2001 tragedy on Roy Street in Hanmer. Asha-Jade McLean, 3, her brother Ellias, 4, and their great-grandmother Pearl Shaw, 75, died in the fire at the McLean home.
    The inquest was ordered to examine the circumstances of the fire and to recommend measures to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.
    Pamplin, who now works out of the United States, was hired by the city to review the circumstances of last year’s fire, write a report and testify at the inquest. Neither Pamplin nor a lawyer representing the city would divulge how much Pamplin was paid for his services.
    When he took the witness stand at the Sudbury Courthouse, Pamplin provided the most contentious testimony since the inquest began a month ago. After reviewing reports on the tragic fire, Pamplin said, “I came to the conclusion that, given the circumstances, the fire department couldn’t be faulted.
    “The fire department did the very best they could in a very difficult situation.”
    After Pamplin absolved the city fire department of any blame in last year’s tragedy, Bob McLean, the grandfather of Ellias and Asha-Jade, challenged Pamplin.
    McLean objected when Pamplin suggested the victims were dead before firefighters arrived. McLean told Pamplin he was jumping to conclusions that ignored evidence from witnesses at the fire who heard voices inside the home shortly before firefighters arrived.
    “How come one of the neighbours was talking to one of the children seconds before the first fire truck arrived?” McLean asked.
    Pamplin said much more than a few seconds likely elapsed between the last time a voice was heard in the house and the moment the first fire truck arrived.
    McLean alleged Pamplin was tailoring his evidence to defend the city fire department.
    “I’m not paid to be here as an advocate for the fire department,” Pamplin said.
    The McLean family launched a civil lawsuit against the city earlier this year.
    Pamplin’s testimony came under more intense scrutiny when he was cross-examined by Sean McManus, the lawyer representing the Sudbury Professional Firefighters’ Association.
    Earlier in his testimony, Pamplin spoke at considerable length about the merits of automatic sprinkler systems as a means of preventing property damage and human tragedies from house fires.
    Pamplin did not mention he works for the U.S.-based National Fire Sprinkler Association.
    The NFSA’s mandate is “to create a market for the widespread acceptance of competently installed automatic fire sprinkler systems.”
    When questioned about the link by McManus, Pamplin acknowledged the sprinkler association employs him as a regional manager.
    Several tense exchanges followed as McManus suggested much of Pamplin’s testimony was either misleading, unsubstantiated or contradicted by research.
    For example, Pamplin’s assertion the city fire department could not be blamed for the tragic outcome of last year’s fire was based on his conclusion that a deadly “flashover” occurred in the McLean home before firefighters arrived.
    A flashover is a phenomenon in which volatile, toxic gases build up until they are suddenly and violently ignited, momentarily creating a deadly atmosphere in which temperatures can rise as high as 1,500 F.
    Pamplin, who referred to the term flashover dozens of times during his testimony, said he has no doubt flashover occurred in the McLean home last year.
    The flashover happened before firefighters arrived, making any rescue attempt pointless because the victims could not have survived, he said.
    “The fight was over before (firefighters) arrived.”
    McManus questioned how Pamplin could conclude flashover had occurred when he had not had inspected the McLean home. In contrast, McManus noted, two experienced fire investigators who examined the home “with a fine-toothed comb” said there was insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not flashover had occurred.
    Investigators also testified that, if flashover had occurred, it would have happened in the basement of the home, not on the main floor where the victims were.
    Pamplin said he stood by his finding, which he drew by reviewing investigators’ reports and documents and photos of the fire scene.
    Pamplin’s assertion that flashover generally occurs within three to five minutes after a fire begins also was called into question by McManus.
    Research by experts indicates the average flashover time is 10 minutes, McManus noted. The NFPA is an international, non-profit organization of experts that develops codes, standards and guidelines for fire protection.
    Pamplin said he disagreed with the NFPA’s research on flashover timing, but he did not care to discuss his reasons. “I don’t want to get into this because it gets into a lot of politics,” he said.
    Pamplin used a similar reason to explain his disagreement with a study by a national fire chiefs’ organization, which determined there should be four firefighters on a fire truck when it is dispatched to an emergency call.
    Pamplin said he did not agree with the study, adding, “Again, this is a lot of politics.”
    McManus suggested Pamplin had no scientific or research basis for his dissenting opinion.
    “Are you saying that every time you disagree with a study, it’s because of politics?” McManus asked.
    McManus also had Pamplin acknowledge that some of the statistics he cited earlier in his testimony were based not on recognized research, but on his own anecdotal evidence. Those statistics included Pamplin’s views on the prevalence of different methods of fighting fires, as well as response times to fires.
    Pamplin also provided misleading evidence when he testified that the overwhelming majority of fire departments in Canada are staffed by volunteer firefighters, rather than full-time professional firefighters, McManus suggested.
    While many small communities have volunteer fire departments, the majority of the population lives in communities served by full-time firefighters, McManus said. In Ontario, 85 per cent of the population is served by fire departments staffed exclusively or partially by full-time firefighters, he said.
    McManus also suggested Pamplin provided misleading testimony when he stated the number of firefighters who responded to the McLean home last year “was more than adequate.”
    Pamplin neglected to emphasize that many of the 19 firefighters who responded to the McLean home arrived after a considerable delay, too late to have any impact on the outcome of the fire, McManus said.

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    Sr. Information Officer NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Question

    Maybe it's time for city's administrations to take responsiblity for the consequences suffered, as a result of their budget cutting. If people die, due to delayed response...or lack of manpower...it really is their fault, isn't it???

    It would certainly be an interesting lawsuit, eh?
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    Senior Member Temptaker's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if Pamplin being there was a good thing or not. I'd sure like to hear his reasons for not agreeing with the research though. I already know why he figures you don't need 4 on a rig, that would be because when he was in Vancouver he came to the conclusion that it's ok to run 3 (doesn't happen ALL the time, but it does happen)

    Thank you for posting this info

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    After reading it a few times you can punch holes in both sides here as they exchange back and forth.
    Most of the depts in Canada are vollie.
    Most of the population is served by paid depts.
    both are true. think about it..
    I hope that the final outcome will help the local fire service and the citizens they protect.
    If this is not to " lay blame" but help change things so it wont happen again, I wonder if they did or asked,

    -review the FF training records.
    What is the response time from station to the fire?
    What was the time at the day of the fire with how many FF?
    who was in charge and what was the plan?

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    Ralph, can you give us a little background on this, there seems to be a lot of information missing.

    Most importantly, what is the basis for the lawsuit? To sue the city because they didn't respond appropriately is very vague. Are they alleging that the lack of staff caused a delay in entering the home for search and rescue purposes? Are they saying that the firefighters waited for more resources before entering? Are they saying they took too long to get there?

    As for the witness statement that they spoke to the children seconds before the arrival of the firefighters, I have one question...........did they speak back? How many times have witnesses swore they were "just talking" to an arrest patient moments before, yet the body is cold and mottled?

    What was the determination of cause? Were there working smoke alarms in the home?

    I along with everyone else would love to see full time adequately staffed fire apparatus respond to every call, but that is not realistic. If I enjoy the tax savings I'm receiving by having a Volunteer Department, or a full time Department cut to the bone, then you would think that I would do everything in my power to ensure a fire doesn't start in my home, or that if it does I supply the necessary tools to survive it.

  9. #9
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs down What???

    As a Volunteer who holds a Fire Officer IV certificate from the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications, I have one question. Who told those quoted in the Sudbury Star that full time equated to professional status?? As a regular forum contributor says in his signature line "Paid is Career, Volunteer is Volunteer, Both are Professional, Learn the difference" or something close to those words. That is my opinion, exactly!! Far too often "Volunteer" is equated with "Amateur" which is just plain wrong!! Time to fix it folks! Stay Safe....
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    LadyCapn, I just happened to stumble across this story so I don't know too much about it. The lawsuit would include a statement of claim outlining why the plantiffs feel they are entitled to damages, but I am not aware of what they are claiming.

    Fire departments in Canada have been successfully sued for an inadequate or improper response to a fire, and I'm sure this also happens in the United States quite often. If there is a slow response time, inoperable or malfunctioning equipment, if firefighters were not properly trained or equipped to do the job, or if there was some misconduct by a firefighter, then a victim could potentially sue a fire department. The Court would have to weigh the evidence and determine if the incident was foreseeable and if the City acted in good faith. Note: I'm not a legal expert.

    The City of Montreal had to pay multi-million dollar damages a few years ago, because of errors they made in fighting a large fire in a high-rise office building, the damages for that one incident were about 4 times what the City would pay for all liability claims in a year. I will try to dig out the article if anyone is interested.

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    Ralph, I believe that article was in the latest issue of the Internation Association of Arson Investigators magazine. Most the of Departments discussed in the article were in the Provinces of Quebec and some of the far Eastern Provinces.

    I'm not aware many of them have the same level of Legislation as we do (FPPA). Now if only the FMO had the (clearing throat in a ladylike manner) cajones to enforce their own Legislation we would see alot less of this type of litigation.

    I would however love to know what their statement of claim is and how much blame lies on the homeowner.

    I didn't see an archive option on the site and I'm amazed it hasn't made the TO Sun.

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    The fire department should not be liable. The city should not be liable, the chief should not be liable, the firemen shouldn't be liable. If you are going to base a lawsuit soely on response times...ha!

    The Randolph FC, in which I am a member of, has response times of up to 20 minutes through out district. This may seem like a long time and it is. But. We operate out of two stations that are both in the village, too many hills, too much hilly terrain slows us down. On average there is a heavy rescue and a pumper enroute in about 2 minutes. If slow response was to blame, then they, as we are, should be looking into different ways of doing it. We are currently in the process of talking about putting a station literally out in the middle of nowhere. So then it is closer to that somewhere where we need to be.

    If it was because no interior attack was done, was the structure safe? And certified as being safe by your safety officer? If it was deemed unsafe than none of our firemen would enter either. If you put a man into a structure ready to collapse all you have is one more victim. Sorry I can't offer any more insight than that, but from reading this I just can't draw a strong conclusion.

    My policy is, if its broken, it can be fixed because it had to work before. Putting a paid department in our community, would save maybe 1 minute to the call. Still the same elements. Just different people.
    Firefighter/EMT Mitch Cowen
    Hose Co. 1 1st Lieutenant
    Randolph Fire Co. Inc

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    As a member of the City of Greater Sudbury Emergency Services (Volunteer Fire)it is my considered opinion that what we have up here is a classic ******ing contest going on and that the tragic loss of life is being used by groups to possibly make politcal statements. Historically the City of Greater Sudbury came into being on January 1st, 2001 a short four months prior to this incident. Operating budgets for the new City's Fire/EMS services were nothing more than the former 7 municipalities budgets, combined as were the systems in place. I suppose one can try to understand the difficulties of such a feat as bringing 7 different fire departments and their indiviual operating systems into one cohesive unit. Throw into the mix a composite system now composed of 100 full time ( former city of Sudbury) and about 350 volunteers ( all outlying municipalities) all under the same administration. The city,s population base of 160,000 spread over a thousand + square miles ( a core of 90,000 "downtown")and the rest in urban/wildland interface communities. So what happened then?? Well that's what the inquiry is supposed to be all about. I mean, really What Happened!!! Cause and determination. It is easy for us to make quick judgement and come to conclusion (s), but without all the facts available, are they accurate. Bear in mind that the Ontario Fire Marshall's report on Fire Services indicated the need to increase staffing numbers in the former area known as Valley East prior to this incident, the budget restraints at the time and a host of other amagamation difficulties, this incident may have just been waiting to happen. Granted the volunteer system in our community(s) may require an overhaul, and a quick but costly solution has been stated, we must investigate all ways and means of providing fire protection services to our community at reasonable cost. Even the former Fire Chief once stated to me that before he would consider full time services, call volumes would need to be above 200 to justify.( statement based upon one former municipal area not all of city) I do not have nor cannot provide all the answers, for most decisions made will be political in nature and my only hope once again that they are made with cool heads and reasonable choices.

    This is my opinion and not that of my fellow fire fighters or administration.
    Tim Bennett
    Station 6 Greater City of Sudbury Fire Services

  14. #14
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    Originally posted by mitch_rfd_ny
    The fire department should not be liable. The city should not be liable, the chief should not be liable, the firemen shouldn't be liable. If you are going to base a lawsuit soely on response times...ha!

    The Randolph FC, in which I am a member of, has response times of up to 20 minutes through out district. This may seem like a long time and it is. But. We operate out of two stations that are both in the village, too many hills, too much hilly terrain slows us down. On average there is a heavy rescue and a pumper enroute in about 2 minutes. If slow response was to blame, then they, as we are, should be looking into different ways of doing it. We are currently in the process of talking about putting a station literally out in the middle of nowhere. So then it is closer to that somewhere where we need to be.

    If it was because no interior attack was done, was the structure safe? And certified as being safe by your safety officer? If it was deemed unsafe than none of our firemen would enter either. If you put a man into a structure ready to collapse all you have is one more victim. Sorry I can't offer any more insight than that, but from reading this I just can't draw a strong conclusion.

    My policy is, if its broken, it can be fixed because it had to work before. Putting a paid department in our community, would save maybe 1 minute to the call. Still the same elements. Just different people.
    Huh? What? I don't even know where to start with this... Where I come from, there is an old adage that says that probies have two ears and only one mouth. Therefore, he should listen twice as much as he talks. But, apparently, probies also have 10 fingers, so in this computer age, they can type 10 times faster!

    Dear Mitch, I'm not trying to disuade you from participating in these forums, but it seems that you have opinions about every topic here. And, unfortunately, in my humble opinion, you are ill-qualified to be commenting on many of the topics to which you post. Obviously, you feel compelled to share your feelings about everything under the sun with the whole world. What happens when you do that, in the regular world as well as the fire service, is that you tend to discredit yourself. People will begin to ignore you, dismissing you imediately as a "loudmouth." Then, when you really do have something important to say, they will not be paying any attention to you.

    At your stage in your volunteer fire service career, you should be humble, quiet, and interested in learning. Find a good senior man whom you trust and learn all you can from him. Learn your tools. Practice the basics over and over. Forget about the politics, leave that up to the older guys who have been around a while. I know that everyone is entitled to their opinions, but unless you feel that something is DIRECTLY AFFECTING YOUR SAFETY, you should keep all your opinions to yourself until you have at least about 10 years in your firehouse.

    I'm sorry if you feel that I'm coming down on you like this, but someone had to. You're young and obviously very impressionable, and I really don't want you to get off on the wrong foot. A good start is important to ensure a good career, even in the vollies. Best of luck to you.

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    mesha, thank you for responding. As for amalgamtion, been there done that still trying to burn the T shirt. As for the bringing together of multiple Departments into one cohesive unit, been there too, in fact still trying to do that.

    I don't think anyone on this forum was critisizing anyone who responded, more curious as to what deficiency (perceived or otherwise) caused the law suit.

    The fact that the Fire Marshal's Office had previously done an assessment does not bode well for the new City. A supposedly unbiased determination by the supposed governing body that more staffing is required is ignored by the Municipality. Two small children perish in a house fire and the family accuses the Fire Department and Municipality of some kind of deficiency. No matter what politics are at work during the inquest, the outcome does not look promising as far as the lawsuit goes. Be interesting to see if they go after the OFM as well for not enforcing their mandate under the FPPA and making the Municipality increase staffing. Be an interesting precedent around the Province wouldn't it.

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Post And the story behind the story?

    Thanks to some of you folks who post in a cohesive manner, I have picked up a lot of the background here and my biggest question is: Was the old system so dysfunctional that "Amalgamation" was needed? And I have to ask why replace volunteers with career crews?? I have no problem with putting on career staff, but add them to what is already there and improve service. REPLACING people with other people who do the same job seems.....well.....Stupid. No doubt most of you have seen posts in other threads about people who wish to live in a rural environment, but receive urban services from government. Looks like the same thing here. My hat is off to those Firefighters who have been swept up in this. They deserve better from those they serve. Stay Safe....
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    Wow, one of my posts has gone to 2 pages, I'm getting goosebumps.

    To reply to some of the previous posts.

    H Woods-- The provincial government decided a few years ago that it would be more efficient and cost effective to have larger municipalities, and so they would amalgamate several towns and cities into one big city. All the fire departments, and other local agencies, were rolled in to one big department. This has happened in several places including Toronto, Ottawa, and Sudbury. The amalgamation of several different fire departments is not an easy thing, different union contracts, different dispatching facilities, different SOP's. There is a lot of politics involved, and in many cases politicians don't want to make unpopular decisions. In the area I come from 16 departments were rolled into one, and then it was found that the equipment from some of them was falling apart and the new city had to come up with the cash for new trucks. This leads to complaints from people who are saying "Why should I be paying for a new fire truck for a village 30 miles away?", and so they stall and debate and some people still have a fire truck that is falling apart. There are a lot of politics, egos, and personal fiefdoms involved, so it will take years to sort things out.

    Mesha-- Great to hear from someone with knowledge of the Sudbury situation. I agree with you, there are a lot of people trying to push their own agenda in this situation.

    LadyCapn-- You raised an interesting point about the Fire Marshal's Office. Have they ever exercised their authority to force a fire department to make upgrades or changes? I think it would have to be a pretty drastic situation for them to step in and force changes.

    Mitch-- I didn't see anything that said the fire department was being sued solely on the basis of their response time. It is up to the court to decide.

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    If I am not mistaken the FPPA states something to the effect that Municipalities must provide adequate fire protection. So the question then is what is considered adequate and who makes that determination. Pretty grey isn't it? Even the municipal act only states that municipalities must provide fire protection, but does not spell out to what level or how. A municipality can opt to provide protection by contracting out to a neighbouring municipality is it so wishes. Nevertheless, I believe that we must let the system (inquest)perform and carry out its responsibilities, that emotion is placed aside for logic and the elected officials makes choices based on fact and not fear.

    This is my opinion and not that of my fellow fire fighters nor administration
    Tim Bennett
    Greater Sudbury Emergency Services (Fire)

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    Actually, under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, a Municipality does not need to provide fire protection at all. The only thing they are mandated to provide is public fire prevention education and a smoke alarm program.

    "2.(1) Every municipality shall,

    (a) establish a program in the municipality which must include public education with respect to fire safety and certain components of fire prevention; and

    (b) provide such other fire protection services as it determines may be necessary in accordance with its needs and circumstances."



    So, the amount of fire protection services offered by a Municipality can be what they determine to be adequate. So, theorectically, a Municipality need not even have a Fire Department if they feel it isn't necessary.

    However, the Office of the Fire Marshal, can and will evaluate any Municipality to ensure that the safety of the public is being served. As you mentioned, this had already been done and it was the opinion of the Office of the Fire Marshal that a staffing increase was necessary. They will then make a presentation to council. Should council refuse to adopt their recommendations, then the FPPA again comes into play as stated,

    Review of municipal fire services

    (7) The Fire Marshal may monitor and review the fire protection services provided by municipalities to ensure that municipalities have met their responsibilities under this section and, if the Fire Marshal is of the opinion that, as a result of a municipality failing to comply with its responsibilities under subsection (1), a serious threat to public safety exists in the municipality, he or she may make recommendations to the council of the municipality with respect to possible measures the municipality may take to remedy or reduce the threat to public safety.


    Failure to provide services

    (8) If a municipality fails to adhere to the recommendations made by the Fire Marshal under subsection (7) or to take any other measures that in the opinion of the Fire Marshal will remedy or reduce the threat to public safety, the Minister may recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council that a regulation be made under subsection (9).


    Regulation

    (9) Upon the recommendation of the Minister, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations establishing standards for fire protection services in municipalities and requiring municipalities to comply with the standards.


    Same

    (10) A regulation under this section may be general or specific in its application and may be restricted to those municipalities specified in the regulation.

    So basically, they can make a law specific to that Municipality stated that they WILL increase staffing to their specifications.

    Numerous studies have been completed across the province, and as yet they have not exercised their power under the FPPA when these recommendations have been ignored. Frankly I am extrememly surprised that they were not named in the suit considering they had the power to force the issue and chose not to.

    I will certainly be watching the website for the daily coverage as this case has piqued my interest. I would love to read some of the earlier coverage if you know where it may be archived or how I can access it. There is far too much information missing to form an educated perspective of the case.

    Good luck with your amalgamation woes, things do get better.

  20. #20
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    Default Oooops, wrote too soon

    As found in todays Sudbury Star...........


    OFM ignored warnings

    Lawyer says fire marshal’s office had known for some time that fire services in Valley East was ‘suspect’

    By Denis St. Pierre/The Sudbury Star

    Despite being given new, sweeping powers five years ago, the Ontario Fire Marshal has failed to wield its legal clout to force any municipal fire department to improve its services, a coroner’s inquest heard Thursday.
    A senior OFM official was challenged to explain why the fire marshal has never used the full legal powers it received in 1997 with the introduction of the provincial Fire Protection and Prevention Act.
    Barry McKinnon, OFM’s chief of emergency management response, was the final witness to testify at the inquest into a deadly house fire last year in Valley East. Asha-Jade McLean, 3, her brother Ellias, 4, and their great-grandmother Pearl Shaw, 75, died in the fire at the McLean home on Roy Street in Hanmer.
    McKinnon was the latest in a series of OFM officials called to testify. He was forced to defend the OFM against suggestions the agency has not been aggressive enough in forcing municipalities to improve their fire services.

    Given more power
    Before passage of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act in 1997, the OFM could only recommend, advise and urge municipalities to make changes to their fire services. The introduction of the FPPA gave the fire marshal the power to have its recommendations legally imposed on municipalities.
    However, that has yet to happen, even though the OFM is aware of numerous, chronic shortcomings within dozens of fire department in the province, noted Sean McManus, the lawyer representing professional firefighters at the inquest.
    “I get the impression that not a lot has changed since the Fire Protection and Prevention Act was introduced,” McManus told McKinnon.
    For example, McManus said, the fire marshal has never forced any municipality to prepare a so-called master fire plan. Many municipalities — including Greater Sudbury — have failed to develop such plans, McManus said.
    McKinnon said the OFM prefers to work co-operatively with municipalities, but would not hesitate to use its legal powers if required.
    McManus questioned that assertion, given that many municipalities have failed to develop master fire plans, even though it only takes 12 to 18 months to develop one.
    McManus also questioned why the fire marshal’s office did not use its legal powers to force the City of Greater Sudbury, or the former City of Valley East, to implement previous OFM recommendations for greater staffing and other improvements to fire service in Valley East.
    The fire marshal’s office has been aware for more than 30 years that the level of fire services in Valley East was “suspect,” McManus said.
    McKinnon said many fire marshal recommendations to improve fire services in Valley East were adopted in the past. The fact that an OFM recommendation to hire more firefighters was not adopted does not justify legal intervention, he added.
    Bob McLean, grandfather of the two children who died in last year’s fire, challenged McKinnon’s statement that the fire marshal’s office is intent on making Ontario the safest jurisdiction in North America with regard to fire safety.
    “How can you say this, when you can’t even (enforce) a standard?” McLean said.
    While the OFM has enforcement powers, it also must consider a municipality’s fiscal position and the needs perceived by the community, McKinnon said.
    Throughout his testimony, McKinnon repeated that the OFM prefers to support measures that “fit the needs and circumstances of the community. “Our concern is to work co-operatively with municipalities.”

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