Canadian Firefighter Magazine

New firefighter standards increase training cost

By David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter   

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Nov. 11, 2022, Callander, Ont. –  Callander’s fire chief, Todd Daley, outlined to council the estimated costs to train firefighters under the province’s recent mandatory certification guidelines. He “conservatively” figured the costs would amount to $4,500 per firefighter, and “this cost does not include the 120 hours of firefighter wages” for the time it will take to complete the training.

He broke it down for council, noting that the cost of a one-week course at a Registered Training Centre is between $400 and $500. Add the cost of accommodations, meals, and transportation to that. “Assuming the course was being offered in Innisfil, Ont., 250 kilometres from Callander,” Daley noted, “it would cost approximately $1,500 for one firefighter to take a one-week course.”

The chief mentioned that when the Ontario Fire College campus was open in Gravenhurst—the province closed it in March 2021—the cost to achieve National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Level 2 certification was around $400. That included travel costs, but not the firefighter’s wages. Those campus courses cost $65 a week, which included food and accommodation.

Now, there are Registered Training Centres (RTC). Of the 28 in Ontario, the closest to Callander is in either North Bay or Huntsville. “The RTCs operate independently and decide which courses they are going to offer, often only offering a handful of courses each year,” the chief explained, and this year neither is offering courses the municipality’s firefighters need to become certified.

Daley reminded council that this past spring, he met with fire chiefs from Chisholm, East Ferris, Nipissing, Powassan, South River and Sundridge to discuss developing a recruit program in which new members could be trained “using the infrastructure, collective resources, and personnel of the seven fire departments.”

Since then, the chiefs have been meeting regularly, preparing for a new recruit class in Jan. 2023. So far, “by sharing municipal resources and expertise,” Daly and his colleagues expect “each municipality can significantly reduce the cost of certifying their firefighters.”

However, although “costs will be reduced” through cooperation, the price remains higher than before, and there will be a “budgetary impact to the 2023 budget as a result of this change in legislation.”

The provincial government has provided $750,000 over three years to help offset the cost of training, Chief Daley noted. However, there are “approximately 440 fire departments in Ontario,” he explained, which means each would receive about $570 a year for three years. He noted the Callander Fire Department applied for funding for this program and requested $10,000.

All Callander firefighters—currently, there are 24, including the chief—must reach these new certification standards by July 1, 2026.  Eight officers already have accomplished this and “two firefighters are very close,” the chief noted.

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