Volunteer firefighters to get extra cash for long-service awards

·3 min read

East Ferris pumped added another $10,000 to its firefighting budget and approved long-service bonuses at its council meeting, Tuesday.

But the more experienced volunteers serving in the East Ferris Fire Department won’t get an extra ‘point’ over newer members for attending calls. And the retention bonuses won’t be retroactive with the system of rewarding long service kicking in for 2021.

Fire Chief Frank Loeffen told council he “didn’t agree with the process” of changing the point system as suggested and discussed at council in February.

Deputy Mayor Steve Trahan had suggested that senior volunteers be given an extra point to reflect the skills and experience they provide at fire scenes and collisions.

“They are asked to do extra roles … (we) lean on them a little heavier compared to someone newer,” Trahan said.

See: East Ferris looking to pump more money into fire budget

Loeffen’s report explained how that wouldn’t work well in his report to council Tuesday.

“Not all members with seniority (years of service) have the expertise and knowledge or perform the workload that some junior members do as some senior members are classed as support staff and may assist with logistics such as running back and forth for supplies,” his report explained. “Fairness and equity in point allocation is needed for the retention of junior members with less than five years of service as well as senior members.

“Currently, one point is awarded automatically, on an honour system, when members respond to a call whether they have arrived on the scene or not. If they say they are responding, they receive a point for attendance,” his report stated. Not everyone is required on scene and members are asked to stand down when enough members have arrived on the scene.

“If extra points were to be provided to more senior members for being on scene, compared to the points received when members stand down, this could cause safety concerns with too many people and vehicles attending scenes. Also, providing bonus points for attendance causes a division amongst the members since some are available more often than others due to their employment or outside commitments and life schedules.”

Council concurred, approving a system where a five-year volunteer will be recognized with the usual plaque of appreciation as well as a $250 honourarium. At 10 years, the cash bonus jumps to $500, at 15 years $750 and $1,000 at the 20-year mark. The accumulated experience is then given extra recognition at the 25-year mark with a $500 jump to $1,500 bonus and a 30-year veteran volunteer is give $2,000.

Loeffen said a retroactive long-service bonus would cost an additional $10,250 in the budget this year, adding the emergency service committee were all on the same page when it was discussed March 8.

At this time, Loeffen said they have seven volunteers with under five years of service, 10 with five to nine years of service, two between 10 and 14 years of volunteerism, two at 15 to 19 years, four at 20 to 24 years, and one with more than 30 year’s service.

Council also increased officer honourariums by two per cent for a $1,081.20 cheque for 2021 with the fire prevention officer receiving the same allocation (instead of a per inspection visit of $50).

The point system remuneration system budget is now $54,566, which aligns with the average for similar-sized municipalities and will increase by three per cent annually beginning in 2022.

New recruits do not collect points for attending calls for six months and until they achieve a certain amount of training and benchmarks. The probationary period is reduced to three months if there is prior experience or training achieved at another department or college.

Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca