New fire chief to be sworn in Tuesday

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP - For the first time, Hamilton Township has a full-time fire chief, leaving Alnwick / Haldimand Township as the only municipality without this position in Northumberland County.

Kelly SersonKelly Serson took up his duties of the new position on Monday, Sept. 9.

The former fire protection section manager at the Darlington nuclear generating station has a wide range of expertise which includes: being a full-time paramedic while he was a part-time volunteer firefighter at the beginning of his career; having been the youngest fire chief in the province when at age 26 when he held that position at the Lake of Bays in Muskoka; working with the Office of the Fire Marshal of Ontario for six years as a fire protection specialist; and holding a master's of business degree.

When interviewed last week, Serson, 44, said he thought his hiring was "a good match" and that he felt "lucky to be here."

The father of two daughters plans to sell his home in Lindsay and move to the area.

Having grown up in Northern Ontario and worked as a firefighter and chief in subsequent lakeside jurisdictions, Serson knows the mixed responsibilities of providing rescue services whatever the season.

However, he said, "My first priority is the organizational structure… one that really works for us."

Hamilton Township has three fire halls (Bewdley, Harwood and Baltimore), each with its own chief and other positions. The 60 volunteers are divided among these fire halls.

The consultant's report suggested that the full-time fire chief position be primarily an administrative one and that the existing fire chiefs at the three fire halls (Reg Jackson in Bewdley, Pete Staples in Harwood and Ken Clapperton in Baltimore) become deputy chiefs.

That is one option but others will be examined in conjunction with the township firefighters, Serson said.

The final decision will be Council's, he added.

The same can be said of another of his first priorities and that is the level of service Council wants for the township, over and above the basic mandate outlined in the Ontario Fire Protection and Prevention Act.

For example, there are two boats for water rescues but no winter-time vehicle if firefighters are going to be required to do ice rescues.

At this time neither the OPP nor ambulance officers take vehicles onto the ice, councillors have been told during previous discussions about such situations. This has been Serson's experience in other areas, too, he said.

"The onus generally falls on the municipal fire service to undertake the rescue," he continued.

"Our job is to provide a comprehensive report on the service (levels) and Council will make the decision whether or not to undertake them," he also said.

Serson is to be formally sworn into his new position at this week's council session.

According to a consultant's report about the need to replace three township fire chiefs with a single position, which Council adopted last January, "the anticipated salary for a full-time fire chief would be in the $70,000 to $90,000 range, plus 20% benefit costs, plus vehicle and protective clothing expenses."

Link to article: New fire chief to be sworn in Tuesday

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