Whitewater Region promotes in-house for chief for spring appointment

·3 min read

Cobden – Whitewater Region will soon have a new fire chief from within the ranks when the acting chief completes his contract in a few months.

Deputy-Fire Chief Jonathan McLaren takes over as chief early in the spring. Guy Longtin, who was appointed acting fire chief last March, completes his contract at the end of May. Chief Longtin, who was chief in Renfrew previously, stepped in to assist the fire department twice following the departure of the previous two fire chiefs at different times, once in 2017 and again in 2020. In the second instance, Deputy-Chief McLaren took over the chief duties until Mr. Longtin was hired.

“Guy has saved our bacon twice now,” said Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay at the last meeting in December. “I thank Guy for a steadying hand and thank Jonathan for stepping up.

“Our fire department is progressing in a great direction,” he added.

Chief Longtin said he is leaving the department “in the best financial situation” it has been in for a long time. As well, he said, the deputy-chief has shown good leadership and “he’ll be chief next year.”

He reviewed the restructuring of the department, providing an organizational chart. He noted there will be one fire chief, an administrative assistant, two deputy-chiefs, and then several captains, lieutenants and firefighters. It’s hoped some day the complement of firefighters will be 100, but currently it sits around 75 members, Chief Longtin said.

The structure shows the fire chief will work 20 hours per week, each deputy-chief 10 hours per week, and the administrative assistant 13 hours per week, he noted.

Chief Longtin said the five stations responded to a total of 100 incidents in the past year. Station 1 (Haley Station) attended 18, Station 2 (Cobden) attended 30, Station 3 (Foresters Falls) went to 9, Station 4 (Beachburg) attended 23 incidents and Station 5 (Westmeath) answered 20.

Mayor Mike Moore, who had been deputy-fire chief and a firefighter for many years, but resigned his position in July 2017, noted the average number of calls is about 125 each year. It has reached as high as just over the 130 mark, he added.

“The majority of the calls are on Highway 17,” he said.

He recalled there were 32 extrications in one year on that highway about seven years ago.

As part of the council report, which was delivered during the ZOOM meeting, Deputy-Chief McLaren reviewed the Fire Master Plan recommendations. There are 59 recommendations in the plan and of those, 20 are completed. He then reviewed those that had been acted on since it was last discussed.

When questioned about ice and water rescue, Mayor Moore said that discussion “has been shelved many times.”

He agreed it’s time “for the fire committee to make a written decision.”

The traffic on the river is not slowing down, if anything, it’s increasing, with kayaks on the water in December, he added.

Deputy-Chief McLaren said there is a huge training aspect for this type of rescue and will cost the township a lot of money.

“We are not talking about responding to normal lakes and rivers,” he said. “The Ottawa River is an exceptionally powerful body of water.”

Mr. Tremblay said the emergency plan can be reviewed and information as to who can respond in an ice/water situation can be included in it.

The next step for the department is to post internally for the deputy-fire chief and administrative assistant positions.

Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader