THUNDER BAY – The province is spending $450,000 to help Thunder Bay Fire Rescue create a specialized urban search and rescue and upgrade its hazardous materials teams.
Members of the squads can be deployed throughout Ontario, when needed, to provide support in situations where extra technical skill sets are required.
The urban search and rescue team is used during building collapses to help locate, extricate and provide emergency medical treatment when required. HazMat teams respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive or hazardous material incidents.
MPP Christine Hogarth, parliamentary secretary to Solicitor General Syliva Jones, said when disaster strikes, the public needs to have confidence that help is on the way.
Hogarth, who grew up in Thunder Bay before departing for southern Ontario, said it’s money well spent.
“Our funding will directly support 10 teams in six municipalities across the province – Thunder Bay, North Bay, Ottawa, Peterborough, Toronto and Windsor,” Hogarth said. “Our funding will ensure that these communities, and the communities nearby, can respond quickly when disaster strikes.”
TBFR Chief John Hay said Thunder Bay is one of three communities that take part in both programs, the others being Ottawa and Toronto.
Given the city’s geography, it makes sense.
It’s win-win for both the city and the province as a whole.
“It puts a lot of well-trained, talented people with training that may not have been available without the program, and it provides some equipment that capital costs were avoided by the funding that’s been provided by the province,” Hay said.
The teams could be called into action at any time and deployed to any corner of Ontario, should the need arise.
Hay said there’s another benefit that caught his attention when TBFR was asked to take part in the urban search and rescue program.
“It actually helps protect firefighters, which is my primary concern. We get better training, better equipment and ... our firefighters are going to be safer during those responses,” he said.
Ontario is spending a total of $2.5 million on the programs province-wide. The teams are operated by their respective municipalities, and supported through an agreement with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.
The money is being spent in part because of recommendations made following a high-profile mall collapse in Elliot Lake.