By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 8 2018
The Ford government is scrapping mandatory firefighting training certification regulations that under the Wynne government were set to come into effect in 2019.
Municipalities had been bracing for the anticipated financial impact of adhering training requirements under the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA).
As reported earlier this year the required training would have involved firefighters – including members of volunteer fire departments – being graded by evaluators for each of the necessary skills.
A March staff report from Algonquin Highlands fire chief Mike Cavanagh read: “The cost of the local evaluators would be charged to the municipality. As an example for Firefighter Level 1 there are six practical skills; approximate cost for Level 1 testing would be $1000 which does not include hours for the number of recruits being tested. There are unknowns as well around the cost impact of technical rescue testing as this has yet to be approved. Technical rescue for water and ice as well as pumper operations would be certifications we would retroactively get for some of our current firefighters.”
It was unclear whether the province was going to provide any funding to offset costs for municipalities.
As he announced the repeal of the certification regulations last month Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Michael Tibollo said that the certification regulations presented “significant challenges for fire services and municipalities – in particular small rural and northern municipalities with volunteer fire departments.”
Algonquin Highlands fire chief Mike Cavanagh told the Minden Times that while he supports standardized training the timelines that would have in place were tight.
“Though I support standardized training and testing the cancellation of the regulation does allow us to revisit the requirements and the timelines to make it more achievable not only for us but the rest of rural Ontario” Cavanagh wrote in an email. “Extended timelines and the removal of some barriers written in the regulation will allow for better implementation and reduce the budget impacts for municipalities moving forward.”
The plan had been for Haliburon County’s four lower-tier volunteer fire departments to co-operate on a joint training school and Cavanagh indicated that a collective training model is still in the works.
“Our plan within the county is still to work together on training” Cavanagh wrote. “It is hoped we can train in the county for NFPA courses reducing the cost of travel for our firefighters and making it more accessible for all our firefighters. We are still planning on a 2019 launch of our new firefighter recruit training.”
“We will continue to work with our provincial provincial fire chiefs and our provincial government to develop training standards that better the fire service as a whole and make it achievable (budgetary and otherwise) for our rural Ontario partners” he added.
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said the township would be watching to see what the provincial government may replace the repealed regulations with.
“There’s no question there was significant concern across the province about the financial and scheduling impacts of the regulations” Moffatt wrote in an email. “Algonquin Highlands has been slowly moving toward NFPA for a couple of years but it would have been a notable challenge for us all to aggregate up to those standards. We support a logical and strategic approach to the training of volunteers keeping in mind that they are just that: volunteers. As has been said in the past the only volunteer part about volunteer firefighting is the signing up; the rest is legislated. Our fire services are a vital part of our communities and we will support what they need to keep our communities and our firefighters safe. While it remains to be seen what the proposed continued consultation looks like we’ll be keeping an eye on it.”