Fire Fighting in Canada

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Comment: September 2012

At first, other than the Focus on Fitness section starting on page 46, I didn’t think there was a theme to the magazine – rather it was to be a  hearty mix of feature stories, thoughtful analyses and how-to columns that would satisfy readers of all ilk.

September 6, 2012
By Laura King


Topics

At first, other than the Focus on Fitness section starting on page 46, I didn’t think there was a theme to the magazine – rather it was to be a  hearty mix of feature stories, thoughtful analyses and how-to columns that would satisfy readers of all ilk. But when I flipped through the stories and columns in late August, I saw the forest for the trees: Politics is the theme, and there’s plenty of it.

Two of our columnists – Vince MacKenzie in Volunteer Vision on page 18 and Peter Sells in Flashpoint on page 86 – take different approaches to the end of the trial in Meaford, Ont., after the last of six charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act was dismissed in August. If nothing else, the charges and the trial sparked some interesting debate about the way the Ontario fire service governs itself through the Ministry of Labour’s Section 21 guidelines on occupational health and safety. Some believe the charges should never have been laid and that the ministry was on a witch hunt; others are frustrated that there was so much pushback from the fire service, particularly in rural Ontario, over the ministry’s handling of the issue and wonder how the fire service is to proceed with integrity and credibility after the ministry’s case was so handily dissected.

Elsewhere, Sean Tracey in his NFPA Impact column on page 22 examines the issue of mandatory sprinklers in retirement homes. In the absence of clear guidance (in Ontario in particular) Tracey offers practical advice for chiefs and fire-prevention officers who are accountable for approval of the fire-safety plans for these facilities. By the time you read this, a committee that is looking at improving fire safety for seniors and other vulnerable residents was to have met a second time, and recommendations are expected this fall after years of pushing by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and other groups for action.

Les Karpluk and Lyle Quan tackle a different conundrum in their Leadership Forum column on page 34 – the delivery of service in an increasingly challenging political and financial climate – while Kevin Foster in his Straight Talk column on page 36 pontificates about the longstanding motto of doing more with less and wonders how Alan Brunacini’s Mrs. Smith will cope when resources are so thoroughly massacred that everyone is doing less with less.

“The fire service must take a leadership role to continue to ensure that our communities have available the necessary emergency response services, regardless of who provides what,” Foster writes.

Foster’s thesis speaks to Karpluk and Quan’s point about service-delivery models but includes other agencies, from non-governmental organizations to service clubs and even labour inspectors – a community forced by politics to work together in challenging times to provide first-rate customer service.

While everyone wants the best for Mrs. Smith, helping municipal politicians and bureaucrats understand the importance of a co-ordinated, seamless and cost-effective response is the challenge for fire-service leaders.

Or, as Karpluk and Quan put it, “Proactively demonstrate your leadership; if you don’t, you will be told what to do and how to make it happen. Be the master of your destiny any way you can.”


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