Council approves new training level agreement with North Bay Fire
North Bay Nugget
 

North Bay’s fire department is set to become one of only a handful in the province that can be dispatched anywhere in Ontario to respond to major emergencies involving chemicals, radiation or other hazards.

Following a $2.5-million funding announcement last week by the Ontario government in support of 10 emergency response teams, North Bay city council approved a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with the province to establish and operate a technician level Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) team.

North Bay Fire and Emergency Services will receive up to $150,000 a year to train its members up to a technician level standard, a cost that was previously covered by the municipality.

Fire Chief Jason Whiteley, who worked with Ontario’s fire marshal on making the costs neutral for municipalities, said there are currently eight members with the qualification and all new hires will be required to have the same training.

“This now allows us to do a lot more, upgrade our equipment and always have a sustainable training fund for providing this program and providing this level of service,” he said.

Prior to the announcement, Ontario only had three technician-level teams in Toronto, Windsor and Ottawa.

Most fire departments operate at an awareness level, Whiteley said, which means they can identify a hazard and set up control zones.

North Bay, meanwhile, was one of six — along with Peterborough, Cornwall, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and the Cambridge-Waterloo-Kitchener area — with an operational designation, meaning they can go on the “defensive” and prevent a situation from spreading or getting worse, he added.

With technician-level training, members are able to physically step in and stop a problem and can be deployed anywhere in the province.

During a fuel leak, for example, a member can go in and shut off a cap or seal a container, Whiteley said.

North Bay is one of three teams with operations-level training selected by the province to upgrade its level of service.

“For our North Bay Fire and Emergency Service to have been chosen for this designation speaks highly of the quality of our department. I’m looking forward to the opportunities that this designation will bring forth,” said Coun. Johanne Brousseau, who chairs the city’s community services committee.

“To the North Bay Fire and Emergency Service department, I say, ‘Congratulations.’”

The Ontario government helped fund the formation of specialized emergency response teams following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

North Bay Fire and Emergency Services personnel were approved to receive operations-level training in 2003.

Most recently, the team responded to a report in May of a suspicious white powder at the downtown Canada Post office — the substance which was later identified as face powder.

The team was also on hand during a chlorine leak in May 2018 at the sewage treatment plant on Memorial Drive and helped respond to a crash on Highway 69 at the Key River bridge south of Sudbury in December, the latter of which received “accolades” from the province, Whiteley said.

Coun. Mark King commended the fire chief for his multi-year effort and stressed that the province has a responsibility to provide a necessary level of funding.

The Ontario government currently covers all costs related to a deployment.

“This is a good step forward as far as the fire department is concerned in order to rectify some of those costs,” King said.

“So I guess the next step certainly, and I think we should ask the chief to head in that direction, is the opportunity for a centralized training facility here in North Bay that recognizes the needs of Northern Ontario.”

Whiteley said it was nice to hear the support for a training facility and noted that North Bay is one of the few municipal departments that performs aircraft firefighting.

“It just goes to show the calibre and the quality of the department that we have here and the ability that our people can do.”

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