MP's bill calls on government to gearing up volunteer firefighters
The basic challenges for a volunteer fire department are ensuring the firefighters have the right equipment and training to do the job, said Neebing’s deputy chief Dale Ashbee. Securing and retraining volunteers is the other challenge, he added.
The basic challenges for a volunteer fire department are ensuring the firefighters have the right equipment and training to do the job, said Neebing’s deputy chief Dale Ashbee.
Securing and retraining volunteers is the other challenge, he added.
“Volunteer attraction becomes more difficult over time and we need to stay current and stay with current equipment to attract people to the services,” he said Friday morning.
Tuesday MP John Rafferty (NDP, Thunder Bay-Rainy River) introduced a motion in the House of Commons that would have federal, provincial and municipal governments work to make sure Canadian volunteer fire departments are properly funded.
Ashbee said while Neebing isn’t in dire straits, small communities frequently have large areas in their service area – often with highways running through them – that will require them to go above and beyond the expectations for a small community fire department.
“We’re a small team in Neebing,” he said. “It would be a great thing to have some additional assistance for some senior level of government (to make sure) we have the best equipment possible and the best training possible to make sure Canadians get a full level of service no matter where they are in the country.”
Ninety-one per cent of Canadian communities are served by volunteer fire departments; they respond to 95 per cent of incidents on the Trans-Canada Highway, according to a release from Rafferty’s office.
It also stated 98 per cent of incidents in Northern Ontario on Highway 11/17 are attended to by volunteer firefighters.
And with smaller tax bases, the smaller communities can’t always afford up-to-date equipment. Thirty-nine per cent of their pumper trucks and 42 per cent of tanker trucks are more than 15 years old.
“In Neebing, we’re not in too bad of shape,” said Ashbee. “We had the amalgamation a few years ago and brought in some equipment from other places. We increased to a larger tax base but we’ll still be pressed to maintain that over the long-term.”
“We’re providing them the protection we can with the equipment we have; that’s a reasonable level of service,” he added.
Rafferty said in the release the motion addresses the needs of many constituents to ensure they have appropriate public services.
“These volunteers provide an essential service to many Canadians, particularly so in our riding of Thunder Bay-Rainy River, and should not be working with skeleton budgets,” he said. “I am hopeful that this motion will put the issue on the national agenda in Ottawa. Our fire volunteers and citizens deserve better service and more support from our federal government.”
Ashbee said he’s hopeful the motion will bring attention to the issue from senior levels of government and that maybe they can figure out a way to help fire teams across the country.
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