- by Hub staff

The Owen Sound City Council received the report of its consultant KCB Inc. concerning fire suppression services in the City, and approved implementation of its top three recommendations.

1) Create a new combined Fire Service with the Owen Sound Fire and Emergency Services and the Inter-Township Fire Department under one management team.

2) Consider implementing an Automatic Aid agreement with the Inter-Township Fire Department.

3) Consider reducing the minimum on-duty suppression staffing from five Fire Fighters to four.

As Andy MacDonald, former City of Brampton Fire Chief, delivered the report, he made several things abundantly clear.

First, that there is "no Ontario Provincial legislation that directs the level of fire suppression services that a municipality must provide to its residents." It is entirely within the right of the City Council to reduce that level. This would require Council to weigh the risks against the cost savings, he said.

Second, implementing any of these recommendations would require a change to the current collective agreement with the Firefighters' Association which sets the minimum level at five on-duty fire fighters.

President of the Owen Sound Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 531, Jody Long said that the Association was pleased to be part of the consultant's review. Reduction of staffing levels, he said, would be a public safety concern. Arbitration meetings are set for October for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 contracts. The 2018 contract is not yet on the table.

Mr. MacDonald said the existence of a second fire department (Inter-Township Fire Department) headquartered within the boundaries of one municipality but serving communities beyond those borders was entirely unique in Ontario. The co-operation between the two services will be even more essential when the 10th Street bridge is out, but combining them or implementing an "Automatic Aid" agreement will require political will of the other municipalities involved (Meaford and Georgian Bluffs) and a change to the "no contracting out" clause of the current collective agreement.

KCB also made another 17 recommendations aimed at improving what it called a generally "well managed" service with "dedicated and committed" staff.

Currently the cost to the City of Owen Sound for Fire and Emergency Services is just shy of $5 million per year, representing 16.8 cents of every municipal tax dollar, and approximately $240 per resident of the City. 

Beyond fires, the report says "emergencies that require Fire and Emergency Services immediate attention include; fires, industrial accidents, motor vehicle collisions, medical assistance calls, assist lifts, hazardous materials spills and leaks, water rescue, high angle rescue, confined space rescue, etc."

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