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Oct. 6, 2015, Toronto – Ontario's interim fire marshal is . . . a police officer.

As expected, that announcement – made quietly last week – has rattled some cages. But unnecessarily so, if you ask me (I know, no one's asking, but it's my blog . . . !).

Don't go looking for the announcement, by the way; it's not on the OFM website, the government website, the website of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), or anywhere else, for that matter. (If you google Ontario + interim fire marshal hoping to find a notice from the government, you get, surprise . . . previous blogs!)

The way I understand it, the news of Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Ross Nichols appointment was shared with OFM staff in a memo from Matthew Torigian, the deputy minister of community safety, last Sunday, Sept. 27.

As far as I can tell, no one told the province's fire chiefs; they found out either through the grapevine (goodness knows the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management is rather leaky!) or from OAFC president Matt Pegg, who issued a notice to members five days later, on Friday, Oct. 2, after he was – finally – officially given the information.

Interestingly, the province's training officers, I'm told, were alerted to the appointment during their annual conference at the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst last week – by an OFM staffer who happened to be there. (Which is bizarre, because training officers had similarly congregated and were similarly alerted to the previous, previous fire marshal's departure a few months ago.)

Anyway, according to Pegg's notice, Nichols the OPP inspector will help the deputy minister and OFMEM staff until a new fire marshal – from the fire service – is named. This detail was not in the announcement from the province, which may explain why some chief fire officers were less than pleased to learn of Nichols appointment.

"Deputy Minister Torigian continues to work very closely with the OAFC," Pegg said in his note, "and has assured us that a comprehensive search for a seasoned fire-service professional, who will assume the role of Ontario fire marshal, will be initiated as soon as possible."

I'm not clear on the hold up. According to Pegg's memo, the search for a permanent fire marshal – to replace Jim Jessop, who replaced Ted Wieclawek – hasn't even started yet. News of Jessop's departure from the OFMEM (he was fire marshal briefly, from June 19 until Sept. 18) made the rounds weeks before it was announced on Aug. 12, giving the government plenty of time to start targeting and vetting potential candidates.

That said, I have no doubt that Deputy Minister Torigian is on the hunt for the right woman or man; he is fairly engaged and seems to have a good handle on the politics of police, fire and EMS in this province (he played in our Fire Fighting in Canada/OAFC golf tournament in the spring, which is more than I can say of the fire marshal at the time.)

I'm not going to name any names – doing so got me into trouble the last time I did so – but there are some seemingly quality candidates.

Thinking about it, given the turmoil at the OFM, maybe the delay is justified – if it means that this time the right person ends up with the job, a proven leader whose has the authority to return the office to its core mandate and away from the politics and bureaucracy that has plagued it for the last several years.

October 6, 2015
By Laura King


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