Fire Fighting in Canada

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What’s new at the CAFC?

April 15, 2021
By Tina Saryeddine

Urgency has never been a stranger to the fire service. The same applies to the national association representing the country’s fire chiefs. With so many issues and opportunities facing our sector, the country’s fire service leadership has rallied for a better Canada and a better future. Let us share with you some of the fire sector challenges the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) has been working on.

Addressing 10 in 10: Over the past year, CAFC designed a new strategic plan with the challenges of the next decade in mind. Data from over 100 sources helped the CAFC identify the top 10 challenges to 2030 (budgets, affordability, all hazard nature of fire response, mental health and wellness, equity, diversity and inclusion, technology, changing expectations of the fire service, data and culture). To address these, we’ve expanded the four pillars to include research, policy and advocacy, messaging in service of the sector, programs and services and creating a CAFC for all. The new mission is advancing a safe, effective and sustainable fire and emergency service across Canada. The new vision is ‘Canada’s fire and emergency management leaders united in service of public health and safety’. A report is available on the CAFC website.

Supporting Canada’s future fire service leaders:  Fire chiefs, for the most part, are seasoned professionals who have accumulated a great deal of experience. Many of these individuals could retire at any time. The question is: when they do retire, who will be ready to take over? With a view to encouraging leadership, the CAFC will offering a free membership to all company officers who wish to enroll in the Executive Chief Fire Officer (Aspire) program which allows individuals to develop nationally relevant competencies before taking the official role of fire chief. You can apply on the CAFC website.

Census Day 2021:  For the last few years, we’ve numbered 126,000 volunteer firefighters in Canada based on NFPA data taken in 2016. Is this number still accurate? To answer the question, the CAFC will be launching the Great Canadian Volunteer Firefighter Census. If your department has not filled in the census form, please do so as soon as possible. You can access it on the CAFC website. See Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie’s Volunteer Vision column in this issue of Fire Fighting in Canada for more details.

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100 fire chiefs join forces on ED&I:  No one claims to have all the answers when it comes to making the fire service look more like society, but 100 of Canada’s fire chiefs have joined together to ask the right questions: how can we raise the bar on improving equity, diversity and inclusion in the fire service? Through a generous grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the CAFC launched a Rapid Response Program in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to provide all fire chiefs with baseline information. The program is free for CAFC members. To support this effort, and also funded by the Motorola Solutions Foundation, is a Celebration Series in Equity Diversity and Canada which, with our friends at Fire Fighting in Canada, tells stories of amazing women leaders and their recommendations for creating a more diverse fire service.

Federal Budget 2021: In February, the Minister of Finance invited Canadians to provide recommendations for consideration in Budget 2021. The CAFC made eight requests.  By the time you read this column, we’ll be able to see how those requests fared. Topping the list is funding for municipalities. We’ve asked the federal government to allow applications from the fire service to the Gas Tax Fund which covers capital and infrastructure projects. We asked that the Airport Capital Assistance fund also be expanded and that a Joint Emergency Preparedness Program be reinstated. On the topic of Temporary Foreign Workers, we’ve asked the Federal Government aim for TFW accommodations that meet the building and fire code stipulations that all Canadians can and should expect. In the area of mental health, we’ve asked for the creation of a dedicated suicide prevention line. To address issues experienced by volunteer firefighters, we asked for the reconsideration of definitions in the Volunteer Tax Credit. A copy of the brief is available on our website.

Comments on Codes: This year marks the beginning of a new codes cycle. CAFC president John McKearney and CAFC fire prevention committee chair Chief Chantal Bibeau sit on the Building and Fire Codes Commission. A new series called “Comments on Codes” has been launched to provide fire chief perspectives on key topics including Encapsulated Mass Timber Construction, Radio Interoperability of Buildings, Water Supply, Floor Joists and Sprinklers.

Ask a Lawyer Series: With the help of one of Canada’s most experienced fire management lawyers, Ross Dunsmore, and a laureate of the national human resources lawyer of the year award, James LeNoury, the CAFC launched the “Ask a Lawyer” series to help fire chiefs address issues such as vaccine policy, number of people in a fire truck and mandatory retirement to any issue on any fire chief’s mind. The session is free for members. Questions are accepted two weeks in advance so that the lawyers can prepare. All you have to do is come.

Finally, it’s been a hard year for many, but the CAFC is looking forward to seeing all chiefs and company officers at Fire Rescue Canada 2021. This year, the conference is free for members. We will be trying out new technology to hopefully get the “in person” feel. Book your calendar for Sept. 13 to 14; we’ll “see you there.


Tina Saryeddine, PhD, MHA, CHE is  Executice Director of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. You can read more about the CAFC at cafc.ca. 


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