County-wide approach to closure of Ontario Fire College and proper funding for training

·2 min read

Eganville – Having a county-wide response and approach to the closure of the Ontario Fire College is the best way to make an impact with the province, Mayor Jennifer Murphy suggested at a committee meeting of Bonnechere Valley council.

“Maybe all the municipalities in Renfrew County could fire off a resolution at the same time,” she noted, following a presentation by Bonnechere Valley Fire Chief Dave Murphy about the closure of the college.

While the issue has been discussed by several municipalities and fire chiefs since the closure was announced several months ago, the fire chief said there is still a need for a response to the province asking for a financially feasible replacement. He pointed out the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) had prepared an initial response and one interesting factor was how fire departments are funded. While departments in most of Ontario – except the extreme north – are funded by municipalities, the policing costs are shared by municipalities and the province. He said Ontario gave out $181 million to support police services.

“It is kind of strange the amount of taxes we pay for policing to find out they get grants this large and the fire service gets nothing,” he said. “That has been a bone of contention. There is a lot of money going there over the tax dollars we are paying.”

The closure of the fire college is an issue which has hit small fire departments like BV extremely hard, he added. While the OAFC is not going to lobby the government to re-open the fire college the organization has asked for the funding which went to the fire college to go toward other fire training avenues.

“The OAFC has concerns about the framework of the virtual college,” he added. “There is a lot of work to be done by the OAFC and the government at this point.

“The position of the OAFC is these is not a ‘one size fits all’,” he said. “A small municipality like ours is different than Ottawa.”

Chief Murphy said he would be meeting with Renfrew County fire chiefs and there would be more discussion. He said while he proposed some response to the province, it would not be to ask for the fire college to be reopened.

“Instead, pass a motion to ensure municipalities are properly funded in the future,” he suggested.

The big question is how municipalities will train people and where they will be trained.

“Regional training centres are now the talking point,” he said. “That is great, but they are extremely expensive to attend.”

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader