Sault Ste. Marie Professional firefighters are seeking the public’s support by letting the community know they stand by their message that the Fire Chief’s plan approved by council to reduce the number of firefighters by 20 positions over the next three years.
Rob Shaughnessy Secretary SSMPFFA Local 529 spoke to media Wednesday morning.
“the level of service provided to the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie has and will continue to be impacted by the slashing of 20 firefighters by council, we are appealing to the public to contact members of council and demand that the pause button be pushed , in order to fully understand the consequences of council. ” Shaughnessy said. “Time is required to investigate the unanswered questions and concerns”
Fire Chief Mike Figliola presented his three way plan that reduces the number of firefighters based on an 80 percent in reduction in fire calls. The cuts would come from attrition. The full compliment of professional firefighters stands at 83. Five employees have retired since early Summer of this year, another 20 are expected to retire within 3 years.
The Firefighters association is calling for a “comprehensive risk assessment and a fire underwriter’s study are required and expected when making these types of decisions” Shaughnessy said, however he could not answer who would pay for it.
Shaughnessy said the association is willing to sit down with the city and the fire chief but stresses the citizens need to know the full impact of council’s decision.
The association was criticized for failing to co-operate and not meeting with the Chief prior to the Chief presenting his plan. “as an association we were given five days notice” Shaughnessy said. “That was brought up at the council meeting and was taken completely out of context, there’s a lot of back story to that and we can get into further detail at a later date and we look forward to bringing that information to the public”
“The plan presented is very fluid and at any given time council can put the brakes to this plan and that’s what we’re appealing to the public for”
The association says the Chief’s plan already is under the standard recommended number of firefighters required for a residential house fire.
In his report to council, Association President Marty Kenopic said, “in many cases in North America, emergency medical response issues have been alleviated by giving firefighters more medical training and responsibilities, in fact a number of years ago, Chief Figliola successfully pioneered a system that gave firefighters elsewhere in Ontario enhanced medical capabilities, in order to alleviate EMS resource issues, why aren’t the chief and council looking at that model?”
Shaughnessy said though the association is willing to work the issues out, to say that we are willing to accept reductions , in our opinion we’re running at a minimum right now”
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