New law allows firefighters to 'double-hat'

New law allows firefighters to 'double-hat'
CTV News

A practice known as ‘double-hatting’ for firefighters is now allowed in Ontario after the government approved changes to the fire protection and prevention act.

Bill 57 received royal assent which means firefighters who work fulltime at one department can now also volunteer in their hometown without facing consequences
 
Smaller towns like Caledon welcome the change. When a call comes in there, it’s often volunteer firefighters who respond. Some of those volunteers also work as full-time firefighters in other cities.
 
“We welcome the experience those firefighters bring to the table,” says Caledon Fire Chief Darryl Bailey. “It’s vital, especially during the busyness, when it can be a challenge to make sure we have the appropriate number of firefighters to respond.”
 
Bailey says protections, like the new legislation, are necessary.
 
“A lot of firefighters kind of walked on eggshells, which I think is extremely unfair to them.”
 
Union’s don't support double-hatting because their members are paid per call at the volunteer department. 
 
The union representing full-time firefighters maintains that it has no problem with firefighters volunteering at a department that is entirely run by volunteers, but that it takes issue with full-time firefighters working part-time at another station that also employs full-time staff. The union argues it prevents full-time firefighters from being hired and defies collective agreements.
 
“The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) is disappointed with the adoption of Bill 57 as there was no consultation or meaningful discussion,” wrote Mark Train, the Executive Vice-President of President of the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association in a statement to CTV News on Wednesday.
 
The statement went on to say   “The added potential traumatic stress from running emergency calls to friends and neighbours increases the health risk to the firefighter and the financial risk to their full-time fire department employer. "
 
Unions have fined and suspended members who have been caught double-hatting.
 
The town of Caledon has covered the legal costs for its firefighters. With approximately 30 double hatters the mayor has been advocating for the new rules.
 
"We're a big massive rural area and we need volunteers. The best we can get are double hatters and they’re the ones who come back and train our firefighters, “says Caledon mayor Allan Thompson.
 
The issue has surfaced in other municipalities in the past like in Innisfil where the mayor, Lynn Dollin, says the legislation is long overdue.
 
"Our position is what they do on their time off should be their own decision.”
 
The unions say they will continue to remind their members of the health risks associated with double-hatting and encourage them not to do so.