The Lanark Highlands Fire Department is scrambling to bring its firefighters up to code with training, secure funding for new trucks and bringing in an automatic response deal between White Lake and Mississippi Mills.
It was a loaded plate for Paul Sullivan, the acting fire chief, at the Township of Lanark Highlands’ special budget committee-of-the-whole meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20. A new chief is due to be introduced to the community sometime this month.
“There is a ton of work involved with each (trainer) facilitator,” said Sullivan. “They have a lot of responsibility on their plate.”
The draft budget calls for about $15,000 for training about 15 firefighters, comprising of 30 modules to be implemented over two years, done mostly through in-house training, “rather than having to send all of our fire fighters off to college for training,” said Sullivan.
It is hoped that all new 2013 recruits will be trained in one location at the one time.
“That way, they are all trained at the same time, in the same way,” said Sullivan. “You don’t have one guy being trained one way and another guy another.”
The Occupational Health and Safety Act also recommends that each work site – in this case, each fire station – have one employee on site with Occupational Health and Safety Act training.
Sullivan has other personnel he would like to bring on board.
“We’ve never had a fire prevention officer in Lanark Highlands,” said Sullivan. “That would be one of my priorities. There is a lot of liability in Lanark Highlands.”
Unless someone, like a fire prevention officer, is there to write up a home or business for failing to comply with fire safety regulations, Sullivan warned “that leaves the municipality open to liability.”
Sullivan also admitted to the committee that there are not enough firefighters to go around in Lanark Highlands as a whole, and in White Lake in particular, which was why a joint agreement between the White Lake detachment and the Mississippi Mills Fire Department, was inked last year. There are nine firefighters listed for service in White Lake but, in real terms, the number is really closer to four in terms of full-time availability.
“The White Lake fire service does not have the capacity to deal with fire coverage in the day,” said committee chairman Coun. Ken Sinclair of the “automatic aid” agreement, which will see White Lake firefighters work and train with their fellow firefighters from Mississippi Mills.
“Mississippi Mills will attend all calls to White Lake. Tatlock cannot get there fast enough,” said Sinclair.
“There are no bodies up there in the area during the day for White Lake,” agreed Sullivan, who added that it was important “that the taxpayers know that someone is coming.”
Sullivan bemoaned how hard it is to keep and retain volunteer firefighters, especially younger people.
“It’s harder and harder to get volunteers for firefighting,” said Sullivan. “I don’t know how you say it but they are lazy. I don’t know what it is and it is the young ones that you need. If you don’t keep them interested it falls off and then you lose them.”
Sullivan pointed out that, in terms of equipment, a “tanker shuttle is very important here in Lanark Highlands,” adding that adding a tanker shuttle would help reduce home insurance rates in the area.
The fire department is also working on an inaccessible properties strategy, and there was talk of updating the truck plan. About $65,000 came off of the fire department’s capital budget, which directly affected the truck budget.
“It is depleting the truck budget,” said Sullivan.
Carleton Place’s deputy fire Chief Rod Black has accepted the position of fire chief for Lanark Highlands Township. He was sworn in on Monday, Jan. 7. He resigned his former position on Friday, Jan. 4.
Meanwhile, for Terry Donald, the arena manager, maintaining a budget and keeping up with all of the demands being placed on him by the provincial government, are getting harder to balance off.
“We didn’t get the funding from the government for the arena,” said Donald during the same meeting. “We are under new, different rules and we have to abide by it,”
New provincial guidelines are tightening up the rules for safety and maintenance for recreational facilities.
“It’s a lot of money to update what we have to do… I’d like to figure how we are doing to do what we need to do,” with the myriad of updates that need to be done to the facility.
Donald pointed out that the building inspector “is going to be on our case every day now because it is an old arena.”
Ross Trimble, the township’s CAO, advised that Donald double-check what was mandatory that needed to be replaced or repaired, and what work was merely recommended but not of essential timeliness.
“You still have an old plant, you still have an old system,” said Donald. “It’s like putting money out the window,” he said of upkeep on the 50-year-old facility.
“It’s a safety factor,” added Donald. “Something is going to happen.”