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Federal government considers updating fire fighting aviation regulations

November 3, 2023 
By FFIC Staff

Nov. 3, 2023, Ottawa – A new motion that asks the federal government to bring Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) up to international standards for airport rescue and fire fighting at major airports is being considered in the House of Commons.

Adopting the motion would give firefighters the mandate and resources necessary to reach the site of a fire or mishap anywhere on an operational runway in three minutes or less.

B.C. Liberal MP Ken Hardie introduced the private member’s motion M-96 and cited an assessment from the International Association of Fire Fighters on airport fire fighting regulations, which found regulatory emergency response shortfalls that jeopardize public safety.

“People have been raising attention to the lack of a rescue mandate for at least 25 years,” he said. “We in Parliament have an opportunity to close the gaps.”

Currently, the regulations do not specify rescue as a required function of airport firefighters, and only requires them to reach the midpoint of the furthest runway in three minutes.

In the event of an aircraft emergency, firefighters are only required to hose down a path outside the wreckage in the hopes that passengers can rescue themselves or receive help from flight crews who have been in the same accident.

If the rescue of trapped passengers is required, the airport relies on municipal firefighters who may be 10 minutes or more, which the IAFF said is well beyond the time when conditions inside a downed aircraft would be lethal.

M-96 asks the government to amend the CARs to meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, which specify rescue as a required function of airport firefighters at major airports, and that they should be resourced to reach all points on active runways in three minutes or less.

The move comes after delegates lobbied MPs on the issue at the Canadian Legislative Conference in Ottawa earlier this year.

Several MPs from other parties showed their support for the motion. Bloc Québecois MP Jean-Denis Garon called the gaps “shocking” and pointed to how personnel and training shortfalls affect public safety.

“Canadian airport firefighters can hose down a plane from the outside, but they are not allowed to go inside the plane. This is against the rules of the ICAO, which is headquartered in Montreal a few kilometres from our airports,” he said. “To be able to intervene in an aircraft, they need to have completed 333 hours of training. Municipal firefighters do not have this training, and they cannot get there in time. They lack the necessary resources.”

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