'We're just a busier department now': Fire chief says Wellington North Fire Service calls up in 2018, doesn't expect a drop going forward

WELLINGTON NORTH - Wellington North Fire Chief Dave Guilbault said call volume continues to increase and he doesn’t expect it to go the other way.

“We’re just a busier department now,” Guilbault told council during his annual report on May 27. “However, structure fires still remain about 2.5 per cent of our calls.”

The Fire Marshal reported that the Wellington North Fire Service (WNFS) responded to 388 calls in 2018. There were also 59 calls not listed in the Standard Incident Reports to the Fire Marshal’s Office as they were standby calls. When either the Mount Forest or Arthur station is on a call of extended duration, the other department stands by in Kenilworth ready to respond to calls from both Arthur and Mount Forest. With the inclusion of the standby calls the total was 447 in 2018.

Medical assistance calls increased to 140 making them 36 per cent of the calls WNFS.

There were 34 calls to fires throughout 2018. Of these calls, 19 reported loss due to fire, eight had no loss reported and nine were vehicle fires. Loss due to fire totalled $6.8 million 2018, up from $1.2 million in 2017.

“Yet our structure fires are still around 2.5 per cent,” said Guilbault. “So, that stat can be misleading because it obviously depends on the type of building … the Fire Marshal’s Office always wants to know the amount of loss. My argument is, what’s the amount we saved?”

WNFS firefigthers trains on Tuesday nights 34 times per year for two hours.

“That works out to less than two weeks of training,” said Guilbault.

However, members of the WNFS also completed 124 courses in certified training on their own time on weekends and vacations.

Courses and testing completed outside of WNFS in 2018 included apparatus equipped with a fire pump, new hires completed the Wellington County Recruitment training, hazmat awareness, hazmat operations, Company Fire Officer 1, Fire Service Instructor 1, Fire and Life Safety Educator 1, Fire and Life Safety Educator, flashover training, DZ testing and licensing, annual first aid certification and Wellington County Mutual Aid Training.

“Kudos to our volunteer firefighters who go on their vacation, go on weekends and get certification which will probably be mandated by the government in 2020. There’s been a hold on it,” said chief. “Our firefighters are certified so we’re way ahead of the curve when that comes down.”

Mayor Andy Lennox spoke to the increase in medical assistance calls WNFS has responded to and reorganizing of services by the provincial government.

“We do see a number of calls to assist with EMS and I think we’re all a little anxious about what the EMS service is going to look like when our provincial partners get done reorganizing things, but I think whatever it looks like, we’re going to have to be prepared to advocate for good rural service,” said Mayor Lennox. “Especially if they try to group us like they are proposing for the health unit with Halton/Peel and so on. We might be a very rural part of that. Our advocacy is going to have to reflect that to look after our volunteer fire service and maintain long-term viability.”

Council thanked Guilbault and WNFS for the work they do responding to emergency calls and their community participation.

“We have a very good team,” said Guilbault. “They’re a pretty keen bunch. They are probably one of the better teams I’ve had to work with over my career. What they do in the community is really over the top.”

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