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After a report from Fire Chief Doug Barfoot on the fire protection options in other municipalities (below), Owen Sound Council voted to hire a consultant to review the city's fire service.  City Manager Wayne Ritchie supported this plan, stating that this council had always considered the "long game" for the residents of the city. He said any job losses from a possible transition to a composite department (part career fire fighters and part volunteer) could then be achieved by attrition, although he agreed that arbitration was the alternative.

The only dissenting vote was Councillor Scott Greig, who felt no consultant was needed, citing media sources from the 2014 municipal election campaign to show that some councillors and the deputy mayor had campaigned on converting to a composite fire department. Deputy Mayor Wright was absent from the meeting.

Support for the work of the firefighters in emergencies including a downtown fire this past weekend was clearly stated, but the tension between the professional firefighters association and the council has been building as contract arbitration remains years behind.

The 2018 city budget shows that fire protection represents 18% of the city tax bill, and 92% of that cost is wages and benefits.

 

Excerpt from Report to Owen Sound City Council January 29,2018 Chief Doug Barfoot

I have been a firefighter in Owen Sound Fire Department for 35 years and Chief for 2 ½ years. I am very proud of the work that our firefighters and department do every day in keeping the residents and businesses safe.

Like every community in Ontario, the fire protection needs and the role of the fire service in Owen Sound has evolved. The way we respond to incidents and the increasing focus on the three lines of defense and the number and type of incidents we respond to have changed the face of fire protection.

Our governing legislation, The Fire Prevention & Protection Act (FPPA) 1997 states: " Every municipality shall establish a program in the community which must include public education with respect to fire safety and certain components of fire prevention and provide such other fire protection services as it deems necessary in accordance with its needs & circumstances.

Fire departments fall in to three models.
1. Full time department, staffed with career firefighters who will have a defined work schedule. The stations are manned 24/7.
2. Volunteer (part time) department, staffed with firefighters who respond to incidents from home or work when required.
3. Composite department, staffed with a mixture of career and volunteer (part time) staff. As a rule, the volunteer (part time) staff back up the career staff for larger incidents. Station could be manned 24/7 and volunteer staff will back up full time staff for larger incidents.

As of 2016, the province of Ontario had a total of 449 fire departments.
• 226 (50%) volunteer departments
• 191 (42.5%) composite departments
• 32 (7.5%) full time departments

The make up of firefighters in the province for 2016 were;
• 11,367 career (full time) firefighters
• 19,347 volunteer firefighters (part time)

In the past we have used Collingwood, Brockville and Orangeville as comparators. I will do the same here with a little input from our neighbouring department the Inter Township Fire Department and the Wasaga Beach Fire Department which is very similar to us in population.

Collingwood is a composite department. Staffing is very similar to us as is their population. Suppression staff consists of 24 firefighters responding out of one station, 4 shifts of 6 with a minimum staffing of 4 firefighters on duty. They currently have volunteer (part time) firefighters who back up full time staff when required. The approximate cost per capita to operate this department is $202.00.

Brockville is a full time department, staffing is higher than us but it should be noted they supply dispatch services. Suppression staff is 28, 4 shifts of 7 with a minimum manning of 5 firefighters on duty. Brockville provides fire services out of 2 stations. The approximant cost per capita to operate this department is $268.00.

Orangeville is a composite department. Presently, they are moving to 20 fulltime firefighters responding out of one station. This will allow 24/7 coverage with 4 shifts of 5 firefighters. The full time staff will be backed up by 32 volunteer firefighters. This department also provides fire protection to the surrounding townships. With the hiring of additional full time firefighters we believe the approximate cost per capita to operate this department will be $159.00.

Wasaga Beach is a composite department. Presently they have 20 fulltime suppression firefighters assisted by 16 volunteer firefighters. They staff with 4 platoons of 5 firefighters with a minimum staffing level of 4 suppression staff on duty. The regular population of Wasaga Beach is listed at 21,000. This number is estimated at 40,000 during summer months with cottagers and vacationers and on long weekends has been estimated to swell to 80,000. This department responds on average to 1500 calls a year with 70% (1050) being medical responses. On average this department responds to 8 to 10 structure fires annually. The approximate per capita cost to operate this department is $159.00.

Inter Township Fire Department is classified as a Volunteer Fire Department. It is made up of one full-time Chief, one full-time Deputy and a part-time fire prevention officer. Suppression staffing consists of 40 part time firefighters who respond from home when required. This department provides fire protection for the townships surrounding Owen Sound.

Owen Sound Fire Department is a full time department made up of 2 fire prevention, 1 training and 26 suppression staff. We provide 24/7 coverage with fulltime firefighters. We operate with 4 platoons of 6 firefighters and 2 floaters. We have a minimum staffing level of 5 firefighters on duty backed up by 5 firefighters on pager. This department is unique in its operation as it could be considered a composite department in its current way of doing business. The difference is we use career firefighters to respond to those situations when on duty staff requires additional resources. The financial impact here is the difference between part time wages for additional resources compared to full time wages at overtime rates and an automatic 3 hour minimum call in for full time staff. We currently operate with a response level of 5 firefighters on duty and 5 firefighters on pager. Any level of assistance requiring more resources than this requires the calling in of off duty personnel along with mutual aid personnel from neighbouring departments. Our per capita cost to operate this department is $217.00

 

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