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Sault fire chief announces retirement (updated)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014   by: SooToday.com Staff

City of Sault Ste. Marie Fire Chief Marcel Provenzano has announced he will retire January 31, 2015 after 33 years of service.

Provenzano, 56, joined Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services in February 1982 and rose through the ranks of firefighter, captain and assistant fire chief before he became fire chief in June 2009.

“I want to spend more time with my family and I also want to pursue a lot of hobbies and interests that I have,” Provenzano told SooToday.com.

Among those interests, said Provenzano, 56, a married father of two, are spending time at his cottage north of the Sault, physical fitness, playing guitar and travelling with his wife.

Some of the most memorable moments in his time as a firefighter and fire chief, he said, “certainly have to do with helping the community in situations where they needed our services the most, with different structure fires I’ve attended, assisting individuals who needed to be taken out of a burning building…those things certainly stand out in my mind.”

“Far and away, the most satisfying part of my career has been the last five years as fire chief, without a doubt,” Provenzano said.

“It’s given me the opportunity to look at the department globally, as a whole, because we have a number of different divisions that operate under the Fire Services umbrella and it’s been very satisfying getting a better sense of the operations of our department.”

“Working with city council has been very satisfying, dealing with the extended parts of our operation as we work hand in hand with the corporation of the city of Sault Ste. Marie…having had the opportunity to work with city staff and council and the different parts of our corporation has really broadened my horizons,” Provenzano said.

Provenzano said some of the biggest challenges he has encountered as fire chief have involved legislative changes from senior levels of government which directly affect Sault Fire Services work.

“They require our department to shift gears on the fire services or paramedic side, implement those changes and find the funding to pay for those changes.”

“For example, our firefighters have been required by the province to switch from the old Ontario Fire Fighter curriculum and adapt to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) curriculum and that’s going to require a lot of work from all fire departments in Ontario,” Provenzano said.

The NFPA is a professional U.S. association which publishes fire and building safety standards.

“There are some similarities but it’s going to be fairly onerous to undertake those changes in fairly short order,” Provenzano said.  

“It’s switching from volumes and volumes of different books and binders…now we’ll have to pick up information from the NFPA structure, there’ll be some changes in training and we’ll have to get some of our guys up to speed, and we don’t have a whole lot of time to adapt to those changes.”

There will be no government funding for the required changes in training, so resources must be found within the Sault Fire Services budget, Provenzano said.

“It’s a challenge finding funding because our tax base in Sault Ste. Marie isn’t growing to any great extent to cover some of the rising costs of running a municipality, not just from a Fire Services perspective, because there are several departments under the city structure funded primarily by taxpayers, so it becomes difficult to find that money within the existing budget.”

Sault Fire Services currently has 148 employees, composed of firefighters, paramedics, support staff (such as mechanics) and clerical staff.

As he prepares to leave his post as fire chief, Provenzano said Sault Fire Services is in good shape.

“We have a very good strategic plan for our department as we move forward.”

“We have a very solid, sound plan in terms of what the needs of the department will be going forward for the next 25 years in terms of fire trucks and ambulances…our plan will carry us forward for a whole generation.”

While some municipal buildings have recently been identified as in need of repair to a greater or lesser extent over the next few years, Provenzano said “infrastructure wise, Sault Fire Services buildings are in really good shape.”

“Our fire stations are in exceptionally good shape going forward, and they’re well located geographically to provide some of the best response times in the province.”

“My philosophy has been really based on creating a rock solid plan that will sustain our service for the next generation as cost effective as we can without creating additional burdens for the taxpayers, to recognize the needs of the community, to deliver the highest level of emergency services to the public in a positive caring manner,” Provenzano said.

“I hope the next individual coming in (the new fire chief) will carry on those views.”

NEWS RELEASE

CITY OF SAULT STE. MARIE

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City of Sault Ste. Marie Fire Chief Marcel Provenzano has announced that he will be retiring January 31, 2015, after 33 years with the Corporation of the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

Chief Provenzano started with the City’s Fire Services on February 1, 1982 as a fourth class Firefighter and progressed through the ranks, being promoted to Captain in November 2001, Assistant Fire Chief in April 2006 and ultimately to the position of Fire Chief in June 2009.

“He will be leaving his employment after 33 years of exemplary service with the City, with the respect and gratitude of not only his fellow employees, but members of City Council and the public as well,” said Chief Administrative Office Joe Fratesi.

On August 11, 2014, in Caucus and in accordance with the City’s Guidelines for the Recruitment and Selection of Senior Staff, City Council agreed to the recommendation of the CAO to fill the vacancy that will be created by this retirement by way of a selection process that will involve a search both within and outside of our existing Fire Services.

Although formal authorization to start this process, including the appointment of a member of Council to the Selection Committee, will not be considered until the next regular Council meeting scheduled for September 8, 2014, initial steps for the replacement of this very important position in our community will be taken immediately.

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