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Comment: Co-ordinating fire-service issues

Having attended three regional chiefs’ association meetings in the last several weeks, a few truths became evident about the fire services in Canada. Most of them are good.

September 12, 2008
By Laura King


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Having attended three regional chiefs’ association meetings in the last several weeks, a few truths became evident about the fire services in Canada. Most of them are good.

The fire services continue to be made up of, and led by, dedicated men and women who are driven by their call of duty. It’s not just a trite string of words, it’s a fact, and after 16 months in this job I am still amazed by their commitment.

That commitment fuels associations to put on annual conventions that are outstanding. I’ve heard terrific speakers, attended educational seminars and briefings and been inundated with really useful information.

The sense of community among members of the fire services is humbling. Whether it’s a chief from a volunteer department in northern New Brunswick, or from one of the largest metropolitan departments in Canada, or a guest speaker from a department in the United States, you all share the same passion and goals for your job.

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Take my word for it – that sort of commitment is not the standard in other walks of life.

Having said that, it also occurred to me in my travels after talking to a chief or deputy that, “gee, this sounds familiar.”

Regardless of the region, firefighters share the same challenges. Training budgets are thin and professional development opportunities are sometimes few and far between. Equipment is aging and budget allocations to replace it are stressed. Co-ordination with other emergency responders could be better.

So, if the fire services share common problems, maybe there needs to be a renewed focus on bringing the collective muscle of the regional associations to bear in pushing for change.

Certainly the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs is aware of these issues and has passed many a resolution, on things like the need for a national fire advisor. The vision for this office is to have a place for data on fires in Canada and  to take responsibility for national standards for training, fire prevention and education. The office would serve a key co-ordination role in helping the fire service respond to emergencies.

The core elements of its role have been addressed either directly or indirectly by many regional fire chiefs associations – the grassroots of Canada’s fire service.

Yet it seems to not be on the federal government’s radar – and this is a federal government that will soon be forced to face the electorate.

Some aren’t entirely in favour of the singular office of a national fire advisor, rather they support the CAFC and the provincial associations working through their provincial or territorial governments to bring these issues to the federal forefront.

Either way, it’s time for the grassroots to be heard. A concerted campaign, perhaps co-ordinated by the national association that is populated with all those regional chiefs, could make some noise.

Write your Member of Parliament. Invite your member of the legislature to come to your fire station. Show them what you’re dealing with. As the kids say, make it real.

Editors are supposed to avoid clichés. I’m making an exception.

Squeaky wheels get the grease.


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