WELLINGTON COUNTY – Wellington County’s designation as an official regional training centre for firefighters is the next step in expanding training for local departments, says the county training officer.
Charles Hamilton, county training officer, confirmed the county received official status as a training centre last week and announced it in a tweet on Tuesday.
Early this year, the province announced the closure of the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst but will enhance more local opportunities by designating 20 regional training hubs.
Hamilton said in a phone interview Wellington County is one of the first to be added to this list of new training centres.
He explained they have already been doing joint training among the county’s seven fire departments for the better part of nine years and sees it as an extension of how well that program already worked.
Hamilton said Wellington County is recognized as a model for cooperative firefighter training in Ontario and the regional training centre is a chance to expand on this.
“I think it’s an extension of our collective training philosophy in the county,” Hamilton said. “All the chiefs are on board with this, just as they were with setting-up the recruit school nine years ago.”
On top of the training for new recruits, Hamilton said this is an opportunity to do higher-level training courses such as certification for instructors or fire officers.
This would have previously meant sending people to the OFC or other training centres.
Hamilton said it’s easier to be able to do this closer to where firefighters live as most are volunteers with other full-time jobs.
Under the previous system, Hamilton said training for them would mean “taking their vacation or taking a leave absence from work, so it’s not a real convenient system for part-time firefighters.”
For example, instead of a firefighter doing five days worth of classes over a single Monday to Friday week, they may offer training over five Saturdays.
“This isn’t costing the township or the county any more money,” he said. “If anything, it may cut down a little bit on travel expenses.”
The main address for the training hub is the fire hall in Fergus and Hamilton said he’s set up a secondary training site at the Palmerston station.
This is also flexible and Hamilton said he can move training around to different stations in the county easily if needed.
Being a regional training centre means opening up training to departments outside of Wellington County and Hamilton said he can “share the wealth.”
“If there’s surrounding fire departments that have part-time staff like we do, I’m happy to share the training,” Hamilton said.
Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com