Staffing gaps, master plan could lead to changes for Bracebridge fire

With the deputy fire chief heading elsewhere and two long-term part-time administrators heading into retirement, the organization structure of the Bracebridge Fire Department may be in for some change.

Much of what transpires hinges on the recommendations of the Loomex Group, a consulting firm hired to review the fire department, perform a community risk assessment, and look into the future with a fire master plan. According to director of finance Paul Judson, there is $70,000 budgeted for the master plan in the 2021 municipal budget and business plan.

This assessment involves a look at staffing levels, the current demand, anticipating needs five to 10 years into the future. This could also predict a potential need for full-time firefighters.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to get the completed community risk assessment and the fire master plan all done up by the end of July,” said fire Chief Murray Medley. “But, as with everything else, COVID is playing havoc.”

The assessment involves interviews with staff, and conducting these over Zoom is less efficient than sitting down with firefighters at the station.

“It would be something that they could do in a couple of evenings. It’s stretching things out so, just like everything else, we’re working around COVID,” said Medley.

This comes at a time when the department is experiencing staffing gaps. Pending council ratification, anticipated May 5, an acting deputy chief will be put in place temporarily to fill the role left vacant by Jared Cayley taking the chief job in Gravenhurst.

“We need to keep our command structure in place,” said Medley. “That’s important and gives us the breathing room and everything is in place. We’ll have a full-time training officer, we’ll have an acting deputy chief in place and that carries us through for probably about six months.”

This also allows for the department to act if the fire master plan recommends expansion. If that is the case, the fire department will have to appeal to council for additional staffing, pending budget approval, which would likely take any hiring into next year.

Also pending council ratification, the department did get the go-ahead from general committee to hire a full-time administration person with both part-time administrators Pat Veitch and Lydia Shier retiring after 30 and 15 years respectively.

“It’s way too difficult now to try and fill two part-time positions,” said Medley, hoping to attract someone long-term.

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