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Regional fire training officer pioneered locally

April 12, 2011 Centre Wellington, Ont. - Firefighters across the province are watching as Centre Wellington and fire departments across the county pioneer a regional training officer position.

April 12, 2011
By Carey Fredericks

Centre Wellington Fire Chief Brad Patton, who's also county fire
co-ordinator, has spearheaded the idea for a county-funded training
officer who'll help rural departments keep up with the demands of
providing firefighter training.

"This is the first time this has
ever been tried in Ontario … there's no model out there that they can
follow," township CAO Michael Wood told councillors when Patton
presented the idea at recent budget committee meetings.

The position will be funded by the county, work in the Centre Wellington Fire and Rescue Department and report to Patton.
The
CW fire chief has got support from fire chiefs at rural fire
departments around Wellington County, presented the idea at municipal
councils and the county, and rounded up his presentations with local
councillors. County emergency management co-ordinator Linda Dickson has
also supported the measure.

With municipal support and the county
agreeing to provide funding for the position, Patton was in the process
of finalizing a job description and moving to advertise the position.

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Township
Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj also said other municipalities and fire
departments were going to be watching how the position goes ahead here –
and the local initiative has been written up in the industry's
Firefighter magazine.

Providing training the meets provincial
Occupational Health and Safety Act and Ministry of Labour standards has
become "onerous" for small, volunteer-staff fire departments, Patton
said.

Training has to be extensively documented with lesson plans,
qualified instructors, tests and exams, and a record-keeping system that
allows the fire department and municipality to prove how firefighters
were trained if there's an investigation. The documentation and
regulations make it almost impossible for a volunteer training officer
to do the job properly, Patton says.

Two fire departments and
municipalities in Ontario are facing charges under the Occupational
Health and Safety Act following deaths and injuries to volunteer
firefighters.

Besides coping with regulations and legislation,
training with one set of lesson plans means all firefighters in the
county would follow the same procedures at a fire and be familiar with a
similar command structure – which would be a help in a major incident
where multiple crews respond, he said.

Patton expects the
training officer won't cost Centre Wellington anything. "In fact, if we
do this properly, there should be a savings."