Letter to council


Dear Councilor,

I am penning this letter in response to a recent council meeting I had the opportunity of attending dealing with the budget.

The fire chief had informed the council and public the fireboat Buster “B” was “not seaworthy or safe to operate”. He also said “it should never have been in the water, set up the way it’s set up”. This was in reference to having two right-handed propellers. At one point, a councilor questioned the chief on this and the response was to inform council and public that he was the expert who had deemed the boat unsafe and again cited the two right-handed props.

I was very surprised with these statements since the boat had been in use for over 25 years, so I looked into the validity of these statements and the history of this vessel.

The recently retired deputy fire chief – Bonar Beach in 1990, originally reconditioned the boat. It originally had a 90hp motor with a spare 90hp Evinrude motor stored at #4 Fire Station. The boat didn’t get up on plane very easily when loaded so the department looked for alternatives. It was researched and the remedy identified was to equip the vessel with twin 70hp motors. Around 2000, the Elks graciously donated these motors and the boat was again in service. In 2012 the hull of the boat was reconditioned making it lighter and more maneuverable. The boat has been actively in service since, complete with fire pump and both Canadian and U.S. adapters. A more accurate number of marine responses would be: 172 marine responses in the last 15 years, 63 in the last 5 years and 16 in the last 27 months.

As for seeking an expert opinion Transport Canada – Marine Division (604 666-0445) Andy Allan said there was absolutely NO regulation rendering a boat unsafe because it has two propellers turning in the same direction. Just to be sure the Ontario Marine Safety Inspector Brian Kennedy (290 241-5194) confirmed this, finding it odd anyone would make such a statement. He said the chief could call a marine safety surveyor should he wish the boat inspected. This is the link to the list of marine surveyors: http://www.pcmarinesurveys.com

It was explained to me that two props have much better control and performance than one prop. Two props turning in opposite directions have even better performance.

I believe scuttling our Marine Division for a savings of $2,500.00 per year because two propellers turn the same direction would be putting our community at considerable risk! In the last 2 years alone, we have spent tens of thousands of dollars for swift water training – going to shore based rescue as recommended would render all this equipment and money worthless to the community. We would be relegated to throwing ropes from the shore – a far cry from what our Marine Division is now capable of. Many of our marine calls are from either the police or the Coast Guard – please consult them as well.

We have fishing in our rapids, we have boaters in the river, we have fishing in the river, we are looking at a deep sea harbor and poker run opportunities, yet we are proposing a mere shore-based rescue! Please for the safety of our citizens and the progression of our community, reconsider this reduction in service!

Thank you for your attention to this matter!


Rob Greve



  1. The so called expert that this city is weighing so heavily on has now made another blunder on this decision to get rid of the ” Buster B ” and lead Council to believe that the Fire Service should get out of Water Rescue emergencies. Rob has made some very strong points about how much this city has investing in training and equipment for Water Rescue emergencies. I am no marine expert, however I do have a lot of faith in what Russ has explained in a previous comment. This Chief has buffaloed council into this decision thinking he knows what he is talking about. Remember people the first big decision that Council took his word for. How much faith should we have in this reduction in our Fire Service? Deb you are so right in the fact that Council is so deep in this now they don’t and are afraid to admit there is something not right in the way the Fire Service is heading. I think it is time for the citizens of this city to stand up for the safety of themselves, the firefighters that respond to your emergencies and the wreck-less direction that this Chief and Council are taking the Fire Services.

  2. Attention;
    Whoever advised you to
    scuttle the marine division, on the grounds the boat is unsafe BECAUSE BOTH ENGINE PROPELLERS TURN THE SAME WAY…..is now the laughing stock and head “fool” in the city!(At least in the boating community)

    All SINGLE engine boats have props. that turn in only ONE direction.Does that make them “unsafe”? Of course not! Neither does it make TWIN screws unsafe, if BOTH props. are right hand revolving.It requires just a slight adjustment, while steering the vessel. Granted, ideally, twin screws SHOULD turn in the opposite direction to one another. When engines are synchronized at the same RPM…the boat will keep an even course WITHOUT the skipper even having his hands on the wheel.
    There lies “the rub”! Who ever was assigned to operate the vessel,did not like the “feel” of having to keep both hands on the wheel,and putting just slight pressure on the skew ,to counter the tendency to keep turning to starboard!For a novice,this could be disconcerting.For a seasoned, or properly trained boater, it is of little concern.Anyone who owns even a little boat,with an outboard motor on it’s stern, knows you have to keep you hand on the handle to keep the boat heading in a straight line. Take you hand OFF the handle…you know the boat will go in circles ,clockwise!
    The counterclockwise “Port Engine” runs opposite to the rotation of the starboard engine….but the port engine is a more expensive motor to purchase, and maintain. Not much more, but it’s just not an “off the shelf” proposition. The prop.is different,timing gear likewise, and so on…but to suggest it’s “unsafe” boggles a thinking person’s mind.
    Here is some advice directed at the fire dept. member who advised the chief to abandon the MUCH VALUED marine division.
    “Best be thought a fool,than to open one’s mouth,removing all doubt”,to paraphrase an utterance credited to Abraham Lincoln.

    Message to city council!
    Be wise,not foolish.The Marine Division is similar to fire insurance. You hope you never need it, but without it….it could be costly,very costly.
    Insist the Chief keep the fire dept. in the boating community. A fire on board ANY boat, is a fearsome situation.The fire fighting boat,may not even arrive in time to save that boat, but perhaps other vessels “rafting alongside”, or especially those who leaped overboard to escape.

    Suggestion to the host(s) of the Sault’s resurrection of OPEN MIKE.
    The subject could unleash some interesting caller feedback,I would think!

  3. Ignorance does not excuse one from liability. Its time council does their due diligence by looking into these unfounded statements and reckless cuts. The Fire Department was established for the safety and support for the citizens of Sault Ste Marie. It concerns me greatly that the decisions being forwarded to council come from someone who is not from this city, does not live here or appear to be looking to move hear. If we are looking to attract people and infrastructure in Sault Ste Marie its time council starts making sound decisions. Great article Rob, unfortunately council is in so deep in on this mess they know an independant study would reveal poor decisions and gaps within the Fire Department. They are accepting whatever the so called “expert” is proposing even though the information is wrong or misleading.

  4. For what it’s worth, I fully agree with Rob Greve…We are a water based community and have more than one river running thru the area… Cutting back on our water rescue capabilities is an asinine move. As Rob said, a lot of the calls come from the OPP and Coast guard because our guys can get in the water faster and more effectively… I’m still on the fence about cutting back on firefighters but this move is so stupid I find it hard that a man who is supposed to be so knowledgeable in such things would even consider it. Goes to show you that putting a uniform on someone doesn’t necessarily make him right…Way off base on this one……

  5. It was a lame excuse to scuttle the boat, I personally think that he just wanted to abolish the service and that was the best excuse he could come up with.
    There have been dual outboards installed on boats in this manner for as long as I can remember, uninformed statements like this lead one to believe that whoever made them is incompetent.

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