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City doubles-down on fire realignment plan

City CAO Albert Horsman said recommendations from a Coroner's Inquest into a fatal Whitby fire support the city's plan
2015 10 13 CAO Horsman Sault Fire Chief Mike Figliola Council KA
FILE PHOTO: CAO Albert Horsman speaks to Mike Figliola, fire chief of the Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services, in city council chambers. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday



In light of recent media coverage concerning the provision of Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Sault Ste. Marie and in advance of a scheduled update to City Council in October, I wish to advise of the following:

City administration remains committed to the Fire Services Organizational Realignment plan and engaging in meaningful dialogue with the Sault Ste. Marie Professional Fire Fighters Association (SSMPFFA) concerning its implementation.

On October 26, 2015, City Council approved the Fire Services Organizational Realignment. The plan addressed critical resource deficiencies in EMS that had developed primarily due to a doubling of calls (to 12,000 annually) from 2004 to 2014 as well as resource needs in other areas of Fire Services dedicated to fire prevention.

The plan accomplished this by reallocating resources from the fire suppression area, which is well resourced and has experienced an 80% reduction in actual fires from 1984 to 2014, now numbering approximately 100 fires annually.

The realignment plan does not change the level of first response to a fire event, which remains the same as pre October 26, 2015. However, it does significantly improve our level of first response to EMS events thus enhancing community safety.

The shifting of resources from the suppression area further allows us to allocate more resources to fire prevention and education, training, education and professional development and emergency management.

This reallocation of resources is part of a trend to more modern fire services practices most recently confirmed through a coroner’s inquest held concerning 3 fatalities in a house fire in Whitby, Ontario.

Among the recommendations from the Coroner’s Inquest to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs was for, “Fire Departments to explore reallocating their current resources and/or utilizing resources from the suppression area for fire prevention, public education and fire safety inspections in their municipalities.”

It is our view that meaningful dialogue is best accomplished through the forum of face to face meetings. City administration looks forward to the SSMPFFA returning to this forum for a professional and respectful discussion.