New fire truck to be ordered for Cobalt fire department

Darlene Wroe

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

COBALT - Cobalt council has given staff the go-ahead to order a new fire truck for the Cobalt fire department.

The discussion at council's February 20 meeting included Fire Chief Shawn Hearn who emphasized that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has a set of standards that outline what organizations have to do to maintain their fire apparatus and guidelines about when fire trucks should be retired.

Currently the department is operating with two fire trucks that are about 30 and 50 years old, respectively.

Most concerning to council was the requirement of the Fire Underwriters service that defines what fire response equipment is needed in order to qualify for good insurance ratings, which in turn impact the insurance rates for the ratepayers.

Even so, council is facing a very tight budgetary situation.

"How are we going to fund our fire truck, because that's a very big hit to our budget and our ratepayers are going to see it, and past experience has taught us that we are going to have some very vocal outcry about an increase no matter what the reason," said Mayor Angela Adshead.

Councillor Angela Hunter expressed the concern that even having a new fire truck might not be enough to ensure good fire insurance ratings in the town if the secondary fire truck is 30 years old.

Chief Hearn assured Hunter that "the grade is based on the primary (truck)."

Adshead commented that she is disappointed in the Fire Underwriters for being stricter than the NFPA standards. The standards are based on needs in large municipalities and do not fairly reflect the requirements in small centres where there are not many fire calls and there is not much wear on the fire trucks. Adshead said she has pointed it out to MPs and ministers at every chance, and Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof has also sent a letter to the Solicitor General about the unfairness.

Because Cobalt is landlocked, it can't increase its tax base and the only way to finance the fire truck is by raising taxes, she said, "which puts a burden on everybody."

Councillor Doug Wilcox noted that if the town does not achieve the needed fire rating, insurance rates in the town will increase 25 per cent or more "which is a significant blow to everybody in town."

He said that if the town waits, residents will be paying higher insurance rates instead of paying off a fire truck.

"That doesn't make any sense to me."

Councillor Pat Anderson also supported the purchase of a new truck rather than a used one that will have to be replaced again in a short while, while a new truck would last.

"Hopefully we're in great financial shape the next time we have to buy a new one, or they have changed the standards to factor in small communities with low mileage and low use because that's where the problem lies."

Adshead also added one more argument in favour of purchasing a new fire truck.

"They're predicting a higher fire season than even last year's."

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker