From Ottawa to St. Peters . . .
By Laura King
It seems that efforts by fire chiefs groups to get the three levels of government to better understand the needs of the Canadian fire service are starting to pay off.
Tim Beebe, the fire chief in Upsala, Ont. – which, even Tim will tell you, is in the middle of nowhere yet the department responds to calls on busy highways kilometers away – is a very engaged fire chief. He’s witty (he writes a blog), he’s smart (he writes the Spontaneous Combustion column for Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly) and, it seems, he’s been doing a bit of advocacy with his NDP MP, John Rafferty.
Last week, Rafferty introduced a motion in the House of Commons calling on Ottawa to fund volunteer departments so members won’t have to drive old trucks and use aging PPE.
Rafferty noted that Chief Beebe had brought the issue to his attention and helped him craft the motion. Cool!
Admittedly, even if the motion passes, it doesn’t mean funding will be forthcoming, but it’s a start.
The CAFC has been toiling for some time to get Ottawa to pay more attention to the fire service. Last month, its board members met in Toronto to strategize for its government relations week in Ottawa in March. And the Canadian Governmental Committee has been working hard to bring the plight of under-funded fire departments to the attention of the federal government.
While members from all federal parties have indicated support for a tax credit for volunteer firefighters, Rafferty’s bill is the first I’ve heard of potential federal funding for equipment.
So much for those 100 years of tradition unimpeded by progress! Looks like we’re moving forward.
You can read the story about the motion here.
Speaking of the CAFC, congratulations to CAFC president and Saint John, N.B., Fire Chief Rob Simonds, who takes over as chief in Hamilton, Ont., next month.
There was considerable rumour and speculation surrounding the Hamilton opening. At least a couple of prominent Ontario chiefs were said to have applied for the job, and one was rumoured a few weeks ago to have accepted the position – none of which was anywhere near the truth!
I first met Chief Simonds at the Maritime Association of Fire Chiefs conference in beautiful Lunenburg, N.S., in 2008 (I think – maybe it was the 2007 conference in Summerside, P.E.I.?). Rob is often the voice of reason in debates over fire-service issues and his calm demeanour has earned him the respect of chiefs from coast to coast to coast. Welcome, Rob, to the GTA!
And, finally, a couple of things to lighten your Monday. While perusing Facebook this morning, I noted a post by John Cunningham, director of the Nova Scotia Firefighters School, about fire protection in lovely St. Peters, N.S. You can read the story here about a spat over hydrant services.
As anyone who’s driven Hwy 104 between Sydney and Port Hawkesbury, N.S., knows, the fire hydrants in St. Peters are a bit, um, unique.
St. Peters is a very small town (maybe it’s a village?), nestled on the coast of Cape Breton island. (Incidentally, the very busy Tim Hortons outlet in St. Peters – a necessary pit stop on the drive to Halifax from Sydney – is featured in the TV commercial about Tims brewing fresh coffee every 20 minutes). St. Peters is most famous for the St. Peters canal, which opened in 1869 and brings ships and sail boats into Bras d’Or Lake from the Atlantic Ocean.
Anyway, the hydrants: There are maybe a dozen hydrants on the main street in St. Peters, each hand painted by local artists, featuring characters from Star Wars and, of all things, the Family Guy TV program, along with some old-fashioned cartoon characters, a cross (across the street from the Catholic church) and Santa Claus (near the year-round Christmas shop). My kids still stare out the window and name each hydrant as we drive by. You can see a couple of pictures of the hydrants here.
Lastly, if you enjoy the occasional beverage, you’ll enjoy this story from an English-language online newspaper in Germany. The headline is Firemen called to rescue beer. Kinda speaks for itself.