On Monday, October 26, 2015, City council, along with the Mayor, accepted the proposal presented by Fire Chief Mike Figliola that recommended the reduction of fire suppression staff by 25%, which translates to 20 less front-line firefighters. The passing of this proposal has elicited strong reactions from the public, who are rightfully concerned about the impact of this plan on their personal safety.
This is not a letter to ask you to sympathize with the department to preserve jobs; the issue is much greater than that. Put simply, the issue is safety. I am writing this letter as a wife of a firefighter and a mother of two young children.
I fear this plan not only disregards the safety of the public, but also puts our firefighters at increased risk of harm. These firefighters are our family. They have children, partners, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. These men risk their lives every day to protect and serve the people of Sault Ste Marie and, as a wife of a firefighter, I inadvertently assume some of that risk. I accept this because these men have selflessly devoted themselves to a profession that requires them to sacrifice precious time with the most important people in their lives to save the lives of the most important people in yours.
They are the people who extract your 16-year-old son from a mangled vehicle on the highway in the middle of the night. They are exposed to countless dangerous scenarios and have seen horror and tragedy that many of us couldn’t even begin to comprehend. We trust them to save our homes, belongings and memories in the event of a disastrous fire, and we trust them to keep us breathing, and our hearts beating, when we face our most critical moments.
The proposed plan of Mr. Figliola, blatantly disregards the danger that this plan not only poses to the firefighters but to you, the people of Sault Ste Marie. The new plan indicates that there will be only 10-13 firefighters on duty, which means during a crisis – whether it be a major car accident, a hazardous spill or a house fire – it leaves the remainder of the city at the mercy of overtime or mutual aid, not to mention the firefighters at the scene do not have the required back up to ensure their safety. This is ludicrous.
I do not dispute Mr. Figliola’s assessment of Emergency Medical Services, and I certainly support any increase to the number of paramedics deemed necessary. But I take issue with the reallocation of resources from one essential service to augment another. There is another solution, and I strongly encourage City Council and senior City staff to work together to reach a resolution that doesn’t put people’s lives at risk.
The fire chief has certainly used the fear of legal negligence in his proposed plan to slash this department. However, isn’t it negligent to misguide the citizens of Sault Ste Marie? Isn’t it negligent to make such a decision without all of the critical information? Isn’t it negligent to consciously subject firefighters and citizens to possible life threatening situations that could be prevented by having enough men on duty?
The fire department is insurance for your safety. You pay insurance on your home, your vehicle and even your life. You hope to never use it, but in the event that you ever need it, you hope it is there to protect you.
This is a reactive plan, and I am personally not comfortable gambling with lives while trying to preserve the almighty dollar. Protocols, policies and plans are rarely reviewed until an inquest is needed. So I ask you, people of Sault Ste Marie, who will be the sacrificial lamb in this situation? Will it have to be the little girl that lives next door to you? Your elderly mother? A councillor’s grandchild? Mr. Provenzano’s loved one? My husband?
The public has been completely misinformed as to how this drastic and irresponsible plan will affect your day-to-day life. I ask that you exercise your right as citizens of this great city to contact your council representative and make your concerns with this dangerous plan heard.
Thanks for your time and reading this letter.
The concerned wife of a proud Firefighter