Fire Fighting in Canada

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VFIS celebrates 20 years in Canada

Nov. 7, 2011 – Insurance to protect firefighters when things go wrong is one of those issues nobody likes to talk about. And 20 years ago, no one did. In those days, municipalities carried basic insurance to cover their volunteer firefighters for on-the-job accidents, injuries or deaths.

November 7, 2011
By Laura King

Nov. 7, 2011 – Insurance to protect firefighters when things go wrong is one of those issues nobody likes to talk about. And 20 years ago, no one did. In those days, municipalities carried basic insurance to cover their volunteer firefighters for on-the-job accidents, injuries or deaths.

Today, 20 years after VFIS entered the Canadian marketplace in November 1991, the majority of Canada’s 85,000-plus volunteer firefighters and their families are protected.

VFIS came to Canada after its reps were approached at booths during fire conferences by Canadian firefighters asking about coverage.

“It was clear that VFIS needed to commit the resources necessary to evaluate the Canadian fire service and determine the viability of developing a line-of-duty accident and sickness policy,” says Dave Wyrwas, president of specialty benefits for VFIS.

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During VFIS’s research, it became evident that the emergency service in Canada, and particularly the volunteers, faced the same challenges and difficulties as those in the United States.

After several visits to Canada, VFIS principles learned of the proud traditions and history associated with the Canadian fire service. In the early 1990s there were about 3,184 volunteer fire departments in Canada serving over 75 per cent of the population. These departments were staffed by almost 85,000 volunteers.

VFIS met with a number of Canadian fire departments and municipalities and opted to provide their accident and sickness policy. In September 1991, VFIS promoted its accident and sickness program to delegates to the IAFC conference in Toronto, and VFIS formally entered the Canadian marketplace a couple of months later.

While researching the market, VFIS concluded that the Canadian fire service shared the same types of line-of-duty injuries and heart attacks as its neighbors to the south, and no insurance provider was adequately protecting the volunteers’ financial security in the event of a disabling injury or loss of life.

“We felt strongly that VFIS could have an impact on the Canadian fire service and must enter the Canadian marketplace,” says Kip Cosgrove, Canadian regional manager for VFIS. “We have significantly changed the landscape of benefits here in Canada.”

Cosgrove says VFIS and American Home were the first to introduce the cosmetic-burn benefit, physical impairment benefit, HIV benefit, guaranteed total-disability benefits for five years, and the heart impairment and cancer benefits.

“We were the first to really specialize within the Canadian fire service industry while other underwriting companies were providing traditional accident and health benefits. What is really amazing is that many underwriting companies in Canada today have standardized the cosmetic-burn benefit in their basic policy wordings, a benefit that VFIS developed many years prior to coming to Canada.”

There are more than 50 VFIS brokers providing coverage in every Canadian province. VFIS is the largest provider of insurance benefits in Canada with about 2,000 volunteer and composite fire departments insured.