NORTH HURON – Anita Van Hittersum, councillor for the East Wawanosh Ward, pulled the Fire Department of North Huron’s (FDNH) 2021 annual report from the agenda at the June 6 council meeting to provide comment and gratitude to the volunteer firefighters, the department as a whole and for the personal letter from Deputy Fire Chief Chad Kregar.
“I found it a very thorough report,” Van Hittersum said. “I was very proud of all our volunteer firefighters, and I found it very interesting…the letter from the deputy fire chief.
“It’s a very personal letter, and I think that it shows the trust that our community has in the fire department if our firefighters get personal calls, especially 911 calls…I’m very proud of them, and I wish them all the best.
“I hope that everybody thinks about it that way, and I hope that they will recruit more firefighters because the letter is showing that it is a very large job and I would like to thank them for that.”
The letter Van Hittersum was referring to was included in the annual report, titled “Message from the deputy fire chief.”
In the letter, Kregar explains the department’s challenges during the continued COVID-19 pandemic.
“I personally found 2021 just as challenging to ensure both stations were continuously meeting all new federal and provincial restrictions and requirements. There were weeks the government was changing the restrictions and requirements on a daily basis. It was a busy time to ensure the safety of the firefighters, safety of the community, met all restrictions and requirements while also always being available for emergencies day or night.”
Kregar said he was proud of all 44 firefighters in North Huron and their continued efforts “to support the community through unprecedented times and still maintain business as usual within both stations.”
Speaking of his oath and responsibility to the community, he talked of the challenges he always faces in being available.
“It seems I’m the person to turn to when it comes to the fire department,” he said, adding, “calls continue to flood in and responses to burn complaints, controlled burns, questions about regulations within the municipality, questions about smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, and there have even been several calls directly to my phone about emergencies rather than calling 911.”
Kregar is also called upon by neighbouring fire departments for “advice, training aids which I have created and delivered, and generic discussions to ensure we are aligned and working together on either mutual aid, or opportunities for improvements such as our communication methods.”
Kregar finished the letter by saying, “It was certainly an overwhelming year for creating work around processes to ensure business as usual was maintained, but our firefighters were engaged and involved as changes arose, and I couldn’t be prouder of their ability to adapt to our new world.”
Fire Chief Marty Bedard thanked Kregar in his report, saying, “A huge shout out to Deputy Chief Chad Kregar for his dedication, commitment, and support to the fire department. Without Chad, all that was accomplished would not have been possible.”
North Huron Annual Fire Department Report
FDNH has two base locations, one in Wingham and one in Blyth.
The annual report covers both stations.
The FDNH responded to 193 calls for emergencies in 2021. This is slightly above the 2020 totals.
Public education was a difficult task to complete due to the pandemic. So instead, NHFD focused on getting its fire safety message out on social media platforms.
Under fire prevention, the report talked about the extreme circumstances caused by COVID-19, saying the impact was as significant in 2021 as it was in 2020, as were most fire departments.
The department adjusted and modified its standard practices when inspecting places like long-term care facilities.
They performed virtual inspections and sometimes relied on annual service records of the fire protection systems to ensure compliance with the Ontario Fire Code.
Management and staff held fire drills “in-house” to adhere to the Ontario Fire Code requirements.
Building inspections continued throughout 2021 “in conjunction with the building departments of each municipality, to make sure new builds and homes being modified with the proper building permits were up to Ontario Building Code standards.
Late in the year, once restrictions eased, FDNH was able to inspect all the vulnerable occupancies, such as long-term care and retirement homes, and conduct timed fire drills to test staffing levels.
The report outlined numerous site plan reviews, request inspections, and training sessions during the year.
“Two fire investigations were conducted in North Huron and Huron East,” said the report. “These investigations are normally done in conjunction with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office or Fire Insurance Company investigators. Investigations are performed to determine the origin and cause of a fire and can be used as good training sessions for firefighters wanting to learn the scientific methodology behind fire cause and origin determination.”
Michael Roes, fire prevention officer, submitted a letter in the report outlining additional online safety training, safety plan reviews, the new North Huron website training sessions, and numerous requests from outside sources.
“For 2022, Fire Prevention will continue to maintain fire safety standards within North Huron, Morris-Turnberry and Huron East with any method available during this pandemic situation,” Roes said. “We take all necessary precautions as dictated by the health departments and the province.”
The report said, “as we thrive to be the best and ready for any type of emergency, we have ongoing training in areas of medical response, auto extrication operations, and fire suppression techniques.”
The mechanical division reported ongoing mandatory equipment testing, including the testing of fire engine pumps, six-month continuous testing of breathing air compressors, visual and hydrostatic testing of SCBA cylinders, flow testing of the SCBA packs, and ladder and hose testing.
“In summary, we continue to take pride in our equipment and its imperative that all equipment is ready and in excellent working condition as it’s never known what condition we are approaching at a moment’s notice.”
The reconciliation report shows that FDNH had a 2021 budget surplus of $22,102.53. This surplus has been transferred to the operation reserve account.
In 2021, the fire department’s expenses were over budget by $10,638.75. This overage is mainly created by the holiday pay commitment council made where firefighters were back paid for two years for holiday pay.
The fire call expenses were also over; however, this is recovered in the revenue where each agreement partner pays for calls in their own municipality.
The reconciliation report also shows a capital reserve balance of $3,103.49. The capital reserve was used to purchase the new pumper for Blyth Station in 2021.
New radio RFP approved
North Huron and Morris-Turnberry councils were both pleased with the results of a request for proposals that FDNH issued for the upgraded radio system that was approved in March.
Morris-Turnberry was successful in an application to the Municipal Modernization Fund for this project, receiving $90,000.
The municipality budgeted $120,000 in the 2022 budget, including the $90,000 grant.
Each municipality is responsible for $90,841 of the total $181,682 project.
This price includes the annual maintenance fee of the system for the first year.
“I always think, when it comes to North Huron fire, that we’re at least financial partners with them, so we would have a financial investment already into this radio system,” said Mike Alcock, Morris-Turnberry’s director of public works, at their June 7 meeting.
North Huron originally budgeted $101,000 for their portion of the cost. However, fire Chief Marty Bedard confirmed that this RFP came in under that amount, with Five9 Solutions Inc. having the best proposal.
North Huron’s share of the project will be paid from the Fire Department Capital Reserve Account.
-With files from Mike Wilson/Wingham Advance Times
Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times