Eganville -- North Algona Wilberforce (NAW) council will spend roughly $440,000 to replace Rankin’s current fire tanker that lost accreditation in 2018.
All five members of council voted in favour of the motion, based on the recommendation from Fire Chief Kevin Champ.
The North Algona Wilberforce Fire Department is a volunteer department that provides fire protection and prevention services to residents and visitors across the township.
At the October 19th council meeting, Chief Champ explained the department needs to replace the apparatus in question because of its age.
“Our backs are against the wall because it’s about a two-year window from when it (a new truck) is ordered to when it’s delivered.” Mayor James Brose told the Leader. “The truck we’re planning to replace went through extensive repairs this spring. So we know it’s near the end of it’s serviceable life.”
However, during the council meeting, Mayor Brose expressed regret another solution could not be found.
“Paying for equipment that is so expensive that doesn’t get used very often... there are six, seven major structure fires in a year, lots of motor vehicle collisions,” he said. “Is there an opportunity to share more apparatus with our neighbouring municipalities?”
However, Mayor Brose explained that sharing equipment creates a new challenge of deciding where the equipment is housed and who gets the priority if there are two emergencies at the same time.
Chief Champ told the Leader that in many ways local fire departments do collaborate already.
“We technically do sort of share equipment,” he said. “We have an area in our township that Bonnechere Valley (BV) responds to.”
He explained that if there is a fire within a certain radius of their station, BV would respond first and NAW would take over upon arrival. There is a similar agreement with the Douglas Fire Department. These arrangements are known as “first response agreements”.
Chief Champ said the new apparatus is necessary because the consequence of not having accredited fire equipment is that residents would end up paying higher homeowner insurance.
Fire departments receive gradings from fire underwriters who share that information with insurance companies. The companies then take that information and set their fire insurance rates for residents.
“The dwelling protection grade goes from 1 to 5, where 1 is top of the line fire protection and 5 is nothing, they don’t consider there being any fire protection.” Chief Champ explained. “Typically, we try to aim for a 3b which is as good as you can get with a volunteer fire department.”
During the meeting, councillors expressed concern rural municipalities like North Algona Wilberforce might be subject to rules and regulations around fire protection services that are focused on bigger cities.
According to the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO), there are 442 fire departments across Ontario, employing over 30,000 firefighters. About 60 percent of those firefighters work as volunteers.
Over the years AMO has lobbied the provincial government about fire safety regulations related to training and certification and public reporting.
“Fire trucks are expensive; there is no question,” Chief Champ said. “I’d like to be able to say that if the truck is not replaced then your insurance rates will go up X percent but I can’t because I don’t know what it will be for each individual ratepayer because that’s between them and their insurance company.”
Christina Vietinghoff, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader