Prince Edward County council has voted to support a resolution originating in the North Frontenac regarding impending changes to fire service certifications legislated by the provincial government.
At Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, council supported the resolution seeking support from the province to support rural fire services and provide sufficient funding to cover additional costs associated with the certification initiative.
Effective in 2019, any new firefighter (volunteer or career) in the province of Ontario will be required to complete mandatory certification and training and it will also be necessary for each municipality to undertake complete community risk assessments.
Experienced firefighters will be grandfathered in but the new Ontario legislation mandated by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services earlier this spring would have significant costs to the municipality and would likely hinder the ability for the County to attract volunteer firefighters.
Prince Edward County fire chief Scott Manlow told the committee he would support the resolution authored by the Township of North Frontenac.
According to the chief, the new legislation would be costly and the time line would be very restrictive moving forward when it came time to hire new firefighters after the midway point of next year.
“If we hire any firefighters after July 1, 2019, we have two years to get them certified to the level of Firefighter Two. That’s quite a lengthy process and it will be expensive,” Manlow told the committee.
Currently, Prince Edward County Fire and Rescue averages an attrition rate between five and 10 members per annum.
Manlow added that the department covers the cost to train new hires to basic National Fire Protection Association certification but doesn’t require any further certifications, many of which involve writing examinations.
“We pay the firefighters training wages and the costs and send them to basic training,” Manlow explained. “If a firefighter wants to enhance their portfolio so they are more attractive to the department for a career position, it’s up to them to undertake that cost.”
The new certification process for new hires after July 1, 2019 requires 240 hours of training which means a significant cost increase to the municipality and a logistical barrier for volunteers.
Councillor Janice Maynard supported the resolution from North Frontenac and wondered aloud whether the new faces in charge at Queen’s Park would alter the incoming laws pertaining to firefighters hired after Canada Day, 2019.
“We will follow along but maybe the new government will have a change of heart on that legislation,” She added.