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Laura King Editor's blog

Post-vacation wrap up

Written by Laura King   
Aug. 19, 2011

It’s always good to come back from vacation to a good controversy.

Toronto Sun columnist Sue-Ann Levy’s Monday post about Toronto firefighters posing for photos – at the station, while on duty at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night – with a group of women who were out on the town, has, if nothing else, ignited an entertaining debate among firefighters and paramedics.

We’ve heard this story before – women out celebrating girlfriends’ birthdays or whatever, on sticky summer nights, walk by a downtown Toronto fire hall after a few margaritas, see the firefighters coming back from a call, and end up posing with the guys and the trucks while everyone snaps pix on their iPhones.

The issue now is that Toronto needs to cut its budget and TFS is a target (as are all Toronto city departments), because firefighters apparently have time to hang around the front of the station at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night instead of training or responding to calls. No need to get into the numbers of calls Toronto Fire received on an average Saturday, or the fire/EMS debate – preaching to the choir and all that.

But it’s good fun to read the comments below Ms. Levy’s column and realize that with the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association advocating combined fire and EMS, there are big, big issues out there (and big, big egos too). These types of comments – which are very public! – are not helping either the fire or EMS cause. Think before you write, folks! (Note: There are 460 posts – get a coffee!)

Fellow blogger Tim Beebe writes far more eloquently on this issue and makes some very good points. You can read his post here.

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We did our first cover story for Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly about the 24-hour shift in April 2010, just four months after the Kitchener Fire Department in Ontario initiated a three-year trial of the shift. (You can read our second cover story on the 24-hour shift, from April 2011, here.)

At the time, Kitchener was the ninth Ontario department to try the 24-hour shift.

“We’re still in the honeymoon phase,” Kitchener Fire Chief Tim Beckett said in our 2010 story. “It’s too early to tell if it’s working.”

Early this morning, I received an e-mail from a union member whose name was not on the e-mail, with a document attached that I couldn’t open on my PC and could barely see on my BlackBerry, but the title was 24-Hour Shift Termination Ltr.

Beckett said this morning that the city has “given notice and this is an internal labour relations matter that both sides are dealing with.”

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The Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. has been busy under past-president Steve Gamble and newly elected president Len Garis. Both have moved the association forward and have pushed the B.C. fire service to take a hard look at what it needs to do to prosper and meet its mandate to protect life and property.

Yesterday, the FCABC announced the release of its new briefing book, a document that outlines clearly the association's objectives and the issues the fire service must tackle. It’s good reading for the entire Canadian fire service.

Congratulations to the working group that pulled together this book – it’s a refreshingly candid and visionary document that makes clear to all association members the direction and goals of the association, and the issues and challenges that the association is working with government to resolve.

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It’s been a bad couple of weeks for fires – not forest fires or wildfires, as is often the case at this time of year – but structure fires: three fatalities in a Montreal blaze; four in a fire in Alexandria, Ont.; two in Toronto; one in Hunstville, Ont.; arson fires in Ontario, B.C. and New Brunswick; an appalling lack of smoke alarms.

The landlord of the Toronto home has been charged with several fire code violations and faces fines of up to $200,000. Maybe this one will finally hit home.

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Lastly, for a summertime Friday, if you haven’t already seen our video highlights from the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association conference in Fredericton last month, click here and scroll down a bit, and enjoy!

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