New technician level could see North Bay Fire and Emergency Services deployed across the province

North Bay City Council has approved a memorandum of understanding between the province and North Bay Fire and Emergency services giving it technician level status in dealing with hazardous materials

It means firefighters will be trained to operate at a Technician Level Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Team (CBRNE).  

“In our establishing by-law we are recognized as an operations level team which is kind of a defensive level team. We’re now going to be a technician level which is offensive. You go into the hazard zone and physically stop the problem,” explained Fire Chief Jason Whiteley.

The designation means being called out anywhere, at any time across the province.

It is one of three departments across the province selected for the training upgrade.

The fire department has been involved with the provincial CBRNE team since 2003.

“We used to have six operation level teams and three technician level teams in the province. Now we’ve gone to six technician level teams in the province. So, we, along with Peterborough and Thunder Bay will be upgrading. We always had Windsor, Toronto, and Ottawa as the big technician level teams,” said the Fire Chief.

“Now we’ll all be working together. We can deploy anywhere together or singularly in the province as needed." 

There will be no expense passed on to the municipality. The cost will be funded by the Ontario Grant Program.

“In the past couple of years, I’ve been engaging with a couple of the other Chief’s because we wanted to ensure that this was really cost-neutral for the municipalities, but also recognizing the responsibilities that the province has for providing some technical rescue services and also the challenges in the north,” said Whiteley.

“So, they just announced last week, and it has been a long time coming, that they’re going to fund the North Bay team up to $150,000 every year to maintain, purchase equipment and train staff. As part of that, we have to resign our agreement with the province, but we also have to technically upgrade the level of service we provide. So, our by-law doesn’t allow us to do that technically, so part of it was allowing the city solicitor and myself to finish the negotiations on the contract with the province, and also upgrade our by-law so we’re actually properly providing service.”

City councillor Johanne Brousseau says it is important that the city have that level of training available.

“It is quite important for North Bay because we are the crossroads of Highway 11 and Highway 17. All the transports that go by, the trains that go by that are carrying chemicals, hazardous goods. So, anything to protect the environment and residents. The faster they can react the better it is. North Bay is situated centrally, so they can be deployed much faster than Toronto or Ottawa.”   

Every year the chief will be required to submit a plan to the province listing its equipment and training requirements. 

“The first couple of years there’s going to be equipment that we need to buy because we haven’t had that equipment, and we’ll be updating equipment that is starting to hit the end of its life. The biggest chunk right now will to ensuring that all the people get to a certain level and all the skills are reinforced again,” said Whiteley.

“If you look at it, all of northern Ontario is covered by just the two teams and that would be Thunder Bay and North Bay. So, we’ve got about two-thirds of the province’s first-in initial teams to deal with this, and there’s not too many other fire departments that have hazardous materials capability. The only other one was Sault Ste. Marie in there that would be providing that locally.”

The fire department will be running a course this fall.

“We’ll be bringing some more people up, and all new firefighters coming into the service will have to be trained at the technician level.”

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