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Catching up


July 29, 2010
By Laura King


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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Please excuse the absence – with travel to fire chiefs conferences, a few vacation days here and there and a rather heinous bout with the flu, it’s been tough to keep up.

Where to start? I was just finishing up a column I do for the VFIS newsletter (yes, we’re everywhere!) focusing on the highlights from the provincial chiefs association conferences over the spring and summer. It was an interesting exercise and one worth sharing to prove how hard the people who run these associations are working for the benefit of the fire service.

1. At its conference in June, the Alberta Fire
Chiefs Association unveiled its recruitment and retention report, a hefty
document that is the culmination of months of work by a group of fire chiefs
and other stakeholders. Recruitment and retention are burning issues across Canada but Alberta has
been particularly hard hit. Indeed, some rural departments have resorted to
daytime closures due to lack of volunteers.

The
report includes a so-called tool kit of, well, tools that fire chiefs can use to
help them effectively market their departments, plan events, communicate with
stakeholders and make their departments compelling for prospective volunteers.

The
report is being presented to the provincial government, after which it will be
distributed to all departments and, hopefully, used as a model for other
provinces facing similar recruitment and retention issues.

2.
The Maritime Fire Chiefs Association, which has struggled since its secretary-treasurer
resigned in 2008, is back on its feet with a vibrant new executive: president
Neville Wheaton of Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador; first vice
president Allan Duchesne of Halifax Regional Fire; second vice president Vince
MacKenzie of Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador; and sergeant at
arms Charlie Kavanaugh of Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

At
its conference in July, the MFCA executive committed to looking at options to improving its administrative practises, moving the association forward
and becoming more involved in provincial and federal issues, for example, the
push by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs for a national fire advisor in
Ottawa and
tax relief for volunteer firefighters.

3. The
Fire Chiefs Association of
British Columbia at its
conference in June released a report called Public Safety in the Fire Service:
Transforming the Fire/Rescue Service.



According
to the report, the public policy framework governing B.C.’s 350 fire departments,
along with its operations and practices, need to be modernized to reflect
public needs, expectations, operational demands and fiscal challenges. To do
this, the fire/rescue service needs a long-term commitment from the provincial
and local governments, and fire departments, to make the changes needed to
ensure firefighters can effectively protect their communities.

The
report includes 14 recommendations that address responsibility for fire and
rescue services, the need to improve governance of B.C.’s fire/rescue service,
fire/rescue service gaps, the challenge of province-wide competency standards,
inadequate fire/rescue service information for effective decision-making,
operational implications of independent fire departments, budget pressures and
heavy stress on the volunteer sector.

Pretty
impressive.



What is
it with
Ontario’s cottage
country?

Huntsville
Fire Chief Steve Hernen, who was unceremoniously demoted before the G8 summit and
is doing admin work from home, still doesn’t know his fate. The RCMP/ISU have
not reopened their investigation into the alleged security breech and say the
matter is closed but a municipal investigation continues – mind you, the investigator
is on holidays and things are on hold for at least another three weeks. Frustrating.
If you’re not familiar with the situation you can read the story here.

And in Muskoka Lakes, Ont., firefighters are rallying
behind Chief Jim Sawkin, who was let go on July 8. Ten firefighters have
reportedly quit the volunteer department and others are contemplating similar
action. There are several theories about why Sawkin was let go – early reports said
it had to do with a protest by firefighters in which fire trucks were used to
block access to a building but councilors are now claiming it’s just a routine
management issue.

Sawkin
says he’s unhappy about losing his fire chief’s position but now he’s
considering running for mayor. You can read the latest story here.

 


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