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Comment: December 2010

In September I wrote about Chief Brad Patton, our former Volunteer Vision columnist, who had taken on a project that left him little time to pontificate for Fire Fighting in Canada.

November 25, 2010
By Laura King


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In September I wrote about Chief Brad Patton, our former Volunteer Vision columnist, who had taken on a project that left him little time to pontificate for Fire Fighting in Canada.

Brad’s shoot-from-the-hip style and his vision for a more cohesive fire service will be missed but two great things have come from his departure from these pages: our new, equally passionate Volunteer Vision columnist Chief Vince MacKenzie from Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. (more on Vince below); and Brad’s project to change the structure of the volunteer fire service.

In a presentation to Ontario chiefs in November, Brad outlined a scheme to make the fire service in his home county of Centre-Wellington more efficient, more effective and, more importantly, safer for its firefighters. Although the
project is meant for Centre-Wellington, it can be applied to departments across Canada and can affect firefighter health and safety, departmental liability, volunteer retention and, of course, the bottom line  – a bonus for bean counters and municipal councilors.

Essentially, this radical change involves the hiring of one full-time training officer to prepare detailed training plans for all stations in the county and deliver those plans to the volunteer training officers to use on training nights: accountability, liability and consistency in one fell swoop. Sure, it means the municipality has to agree to spend money on a full-time training officer, but given liability concerns – particularly in Ontario where two chiefs and a training officer have been charged under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following firefighter injuries and a fatality – it’s a bargain.

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“Volunteer fire departments are not free,” Patton said. “I strongly believe that in this day and age … a volunteer departments needs fire and administrative staff and support, and council needs to hear that volunteer departments need good leadership.

“What will this position do? It will reduce the legal liability to municipalities – there will be lesson plans, safety plans and everything will be documented. It will increase the safety of firefighters.”

It’s not a radical change at all, it’s just common sense. So, let’s throw that 100 years of tradition unimpeded by progress under the pumper and get with Brad’s program. Brad would be happy to share more details with you. Contact him at bpatton@centrewellington.ca.

Vince MacKenzie got bitten by the writing bug after he did a View from the East column for Fire Fighting in Canada in May, so it wasn’t difficult to convince him to take on a bigger role in the magazine.

Vince shares Volunteer Vision with Tom DeSorcy, the chief in Hope, B.C., who joined us in February. Each will write four columns a year.

In a true bit of fire-service bonding, Vince and Tom met at the CAFC conference in Saint John, N.B., in September and discovered that although they’re from opposite coasts, they have plenty in common.

Like DeSorcy, Vince wears many hats: he’s president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services, second vice-president of the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association and a director of the CAFC. He will offer a well-rounded perspective on fire- service issues.


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