Flirting with ending fire service

Flirting with ending fire serviceSOUTH RIVER – The Township of Joly was moved from the fire to the frying pan Monday.

At the joint council meeting of the Township of Machar and the Village of South River an agreement to provide backup fire services to Joly was extended until the end of the year. The decision, which was reached after debate, means Joly has a three more months to come to an agreement with South River/Machar before they would be left without fire fighting services.

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South River fire chief Risto Maki, left, and fellow firefighters listening to the discussion during the meeting.

 

Doug Maeck, mayor of Machar Township said Sundridge is the main fire service provider to Joly, however, in order for the Sundridge department to provide service there needs to be a backup.

“You have to have another fire department to back you up in the event there’s a fire that’s what it’s all about. Without us signing a secondary agreement it hamstrings Sundridge from delivering fire services to Joly,” said Maeck. “Joly has asked for back up only. They have not asked us to go and fight their fires. They have asked us to back up their principle service provider which is Sundridge.”

Fire departments in the region have what is called mutual aid agreements requiring them to support the neighbouring municipalities in the event of a fire. If the South River-Machar Fire Department was not providing backup service the potential is there for Sundridge to be left without fire protection if their department is away fighting a fire in Joly.

The South River-Machar Fire Department has been acting as the backup to Joly for several years now. They currently pay about $1,000 a year for the service. Joly has objected to the proposed price increase for the service that would put the new cost at $6,500.

Coun. Jeff Dickerson, who sits on the South River-Machar Fire Committee, defended the new price to the council.

“Someone mentioned to me earlier that Joly can’t afford more money, and I believe there’s a difference between not being able to afford and not wanting to afford it. That’s an issue they have to deal with,” said Dickerson.

“I don’t have a problem with phasing this in over a period of time but I believe the ultimate goal should be $6,500 because the access they have to our trained volunteers and equipment is worth far more than $2,500. I believe it’s more than $6,500, but it’s fair.”

At times, the discussion around the council table was heated. The idea of providing the service for the lower $2,500 cost was met with resistance from Dickerson.

“If Machar is flush with cash and they can afford to pay it we will withdraw from the fire department and you can give it to us for $2,500,” said Dickerson.

One complicating part of the issue is that when fires occur in Joly, occasionally residents will directly call the South River-Machar Fire Department creating confusion and delayed responses.

Coun. Bill O’Hallarn of South River said the issue needs to be clarified.

“The residents of Joly should have clear indication of where they should call for their fire service, and they should go through Sundridge. I’m not interested in having Joly having two departments suddenly responding. South River doesn’t get that, and we’re paying more money,” said O’Hallarn.

The issue of who responds to fires came up recently as a result of the fire at Chocpaw Dog Sled Expeditions last month. That fire killed two sled dogs and destroyed more than $100,000 worth of gear after burning down a storage building.

Coun. Bill Russell of Machar Township said better information means a better response from firefighters.

“What we’re talking about is the odd one that comes in where someone calls directly they have a fire going on and they have no clue where they are. The guys are lost half the time. The Chocpaw one is a good example. It came in as a bush fire, and neither fire department responded and then Sundridge went for a ride and looked and they were prepared to fight a brush fire and they called our guys because they weren’t prepared to fight a structure fire,” said Russell.

Following the vote, the South River-Machar Fire Committee was instructed to work on a new proposal that would hopefully be more agreeable to the two parties. Several representatives affirmed that they want to provide service to Joly but that the right agreement needs to be found.

Russell said he would encourage greater involvement in that process from Joly.

“I think Joly has to come forward too with some ideas or suggestions or compromises. They haven’t come to us. They haven’t come to the board,” said Russell.

Link to article: Flirting with ending fire service

 

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