Fire department funding formula result of lengthy effort, says Armour reeve

A recent agreement between South Almaguin municipalities on a fire department funding model that will also secure training across departments for the next three years is a culmination of a near decade of work toward improving the fire fighting capabilities in the area.

The municipalities include Magnetawan, Perry, Kearney, and McMurrich-Monteith, as well as Amour, Burk’s Falls, and Ryerson, which all share a fire department. They all voted in favour of a per-department funding model, which would see the five fire departments sharing the combined cost of operation.

The agreement is something Armour Reeve Bob MacPhail said he’s been working toward since he first joined council, and he’s glad to see it come to fruition after all these years.

“I’m very pleased in the progress we’ve made,” he said.

MacPhail said the ultimate goal for him would be to have a regional fire department, with all of the current departments acting as halls under one fire chief. However, he said that the current agreement functions in a way where a regional system is in place in all but name.

MacPhail said the biggest difference between the current agreement and a complete regional model is that a new funding agreement would need to be made in order to formally enter into a regional fire department.

“It’s difficult because someone is going to pay less, and someone is going to pay more than what they’re doing right now. As soon as that happens, it doesn’t work. We may keep this arrangement for a long time because it works,” he said.

MacPhail said the process toward a regional fire department began in earnest eight years ago, when area councils discussed what would be needed to reach that goal.

According to MacPhail, there are five key parts to having effective firefighting services: an equal level of training, the ability for all departments to respond to emergencies regardless of where they occur, a minimum operating standard, having standardized equipment, and organizing a strategic purchasing of major assets across all departments.

Under the current agreement all of those key parts are met, and MacPhail said it’s not worth pursuing the regional model if it means potentially derailing the current agreement.

“What we’re missing is the funding formula, and if that’s what’s going to blow it apart it’s not worth it,” he said. “It always comes down to money, and this is an excellent compromise on getting it there. We are 98 per cent there to a regional fire department just by acting like one.”

MacPhail said the largest benefit to the current agreement is that there is much less of a chance of crews not being available to respond to an emergency. He referred to a potential event like this as the “Wednesday afternoon fire” when many volunteer firefighters from one department may be at work or otherwise unavailable to respond in a timely manner. Having people from each department at the ready allows for the proper response to an emergency to be carried out.

Overall he said he’s satisfied with the current arrangement, and is hopeful for even further improvements in the future.

“What we’ve ended up with is something way better than us working alone,” he said.

<back to Headlines