Letter – Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs takes exception to OPFFA President Hyndman

16

August 28, 2016

Re: OPFFA President warns Sault Ste. Marie residents about fire chief’s comments

On behalf of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), the organization that represents the chief fire officers of the 455 municipal fire departments in Ontario, we take exception to recent comments made by OPFFA President Rob Hyndman in an open letter to the residents of Sault Ste. Marie.

Our members’ main commitment is to the health and safety of the residents we serve across the province. For Mr. Hyndman to imply otherwise is completely misleading.

Multiple pieces of legislation and best practices guide municipalities in how they provide fire service to their residents. Among them are the Fire Protection and Prevention Act and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.

In November 2012, the OAFC adopted the NFPA Professional Qualification Standards as the recognized professional model for the Ontario fire service. The Association has not taken a position on any other NFPA standards.

Currently, OAFC members have not adopted the NFPA 1710 Standard related to deployment and staffing levels or the findings of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) staffing studies.

President Hyndman’s conclusions regarding NFPA 1710 and the NIST report are problematic, especially the notion that “you and your family are adequately protected if the city can get four firefighters to your door in four minutes and 15 to 17 on scene within eight minutes.” He has failed to include a number of critical response-time variables, including;

1) time to notification of 911,
2) call processing time, and
3) turnout time.

Four firefighters arriving in four minutes would be possible if the fire was noticed within one minute of the inception of the fire, the 911 call was received and processed within one minute, the firefighters don their turnout gear within one minute and there is a one minute travel time to the scene of the fire. Most likely, this scenario occurs only in ideal circumstances, accounts for only one crew’s arrival, and fails to incorporate the actual intervention time required to effect a rescue and extinguish the fire.

The unfortunate reality, as we have seen far too often in this province and evidenced by the recent Coroner’s Inquest in East Gwillimbury and Whitby, is that structures are burning faster than ever before and the chances of survival are limited if the resident is not out of the structure immediately.

The intervention times outlined in the simulated NIST study present a significant limitation. A number of recent research reports and academic studies discuss the rapid progression of fires in today’s modern homes given the building construction and associated furnishings. Today’s fire environment is more challenging than ever to achieve a rescue and presents significant hazards to the responding firefighters.

Fire service research is being conducted at an unprecedented rate, and the outcomes of these studies require decision makers to consider their applicability based on the local needs and circumstances faced in their communities. NFPA 1710 and the NIST study are only two of the many pieces of information to consider.

The Fire Protection and Prevention Act is the relevant law in Ontario that guides municipalities in providing fire protection services, as set by council, and is in accordance with local needs and circumstances. The level of service is not decided at the sole discretion of the fire chief; rather, it is determined by municipal council.

Fire chiefs and municipal councils use a community risk assessment to determine fire safety risks within the municipality as the basis for developing clear goals and objectives for the provision of fire services. Fire suppression in itself should not be used as a sole risk mitigation technique.

Mr. Hyndman does not address the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management’s directive that fire service is no longer simply focused on suppressing fires. The focus over the past ten years has turned to the three lines of defence—education, prevention/inspection and suppression. The rationale of the three lines of defence is that with effective education and prevention, the number of fires will be drastically reduced, thus increasing public safety and improving the health and safety of our firefighters.

The OAFC continues to champion the “three lines of defence” model as the gold standard of community risk reduction. Increased public awareness and education, coupled with the installation of home fire sprinklers, working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of a home, and a practiced home fire escape plan, are critical to maximizing public safety.

Yours truly,
Chief Stephen Hernen, President
Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC)

16 COMMENTS

  1. there is only so much tax dollars to go around. Actual fire calls are decreasing, medical calls are increasing! We need to direct the funds where they are needed. I for one want a Paramedic showing up at my house in a medical emergency and a Firefighter if there is a fire emergency. What we are seeing here is self preservation by the Firefighters association…..why do they want to show up at more and more medical calls…does it not make sense to put more ambulances on the road….try getting to the hospital in back of a fire truck!

  2. Champagne Wages & Caviar Benefits & Pensions have become the “Norm” in the Public Sector. Everybody is a “Professional”! You can staff an area with 4 staff @ $30 per hour, or 2 staff if they make $60 per hour. Has everyone has turned into a “Mike Duffy”? The Tax $ trough is empty.
    The Private Sector is crumbling. (remember the big 3 shakeup?)
    It’s time the Public Sector quit holding us for ransom.

  3. Unfortunatly education will not completely eliminate house fires, drinking and driving or texting and driving. Accidents are going to happen. You ask the man who was rescued last week if quick response is imparitive. It is strange how our city only adopts certain NFPA standards. It’s also strange that they won’t do an independent risk assessment and it’s also strange that any claims by the chief have not been supported by facts based on our city’s stats and requests by the 1989 Fire Underwriter’s report. There is an easy solution to this; do the assessment and have a new underwriter’s report done.

  4. Good article. City Council and Fire Administration, as well as hospital administration as well as education administration as well as police administration realize there are finite sources of funds to pay for services. The taxpayers can only pay so much. The unions representing firefighters for example, are concerned first and foremost, over increasing membership dues. Their union is a business, and they want money. That comes from doing whatever they can, fear-mongering included, to increase their membership, reduce workload, increase members’ paycheques and then increase union dues. Their members blindly follow along, addicted to the union dogma, like brainless sheep. Let’s build MORE firehalls, give each firefighter a personal vehicle, larger pensions and more retention pay…regardless of the cost. Well, fine. Shut down 2 floors of the hospital, cut back social assistance payments, reduce available daycare spaces, and overcrowd the classrooms. If these parasitic unions want more money, that is where it is going to have to come from. The taxpayer, earning WAY less, cannot contribute any further…we are tapped out.

    • It doesn’t matter who claims to be tapped out they will continue to add taxes and fees as if everyone is wealthy and thriving. There are only two things for sure in this life, more/higher taxes and death. Society nowadays is just plain messed up and it’s getting worse by the day.

    • Bernie, Speeking of members blindly following along like brainless sheep. One has to look no farther then Mayor and Council following the “expertise” of a so called “Fire Chief” who is known to be a liar and a fraud.

      • You have nailed it on the head. The big red machine is trying to increase there scope of practice to justify their budgets. We are getting older with a growing population and without a doubt we will need more Paramedics.

    • Bernie, obviously you are not from the Sault or you would already know that part of our hospital that is empty due to lack of staff and mayor and council have already voted to close down city run daycare!

  5. Bla Bla BLAH. I was bored reading this statement after the first few paragraphs.
    Mr Hernen, let us turn to the (secret closed door meeting) video shall we?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=-EyOf9ABHLc&platform=hootsuite&app=desktop

    Actually watch ALL the videos this site has posted. Let me just say on behalf of SSM, I apologize for the decorum of our local city council Clip 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI6q3C322vQ&feature=youtu.be
    Clip 2 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvL3M09rwXI&feature=youtu.be

    I feel SO disrespected as a citizen who voted in these people after watching these! There was no reason for a secret ‘heads up from the Chief’ meeting, and I’m disappointed in the Mayor for his unnecessary cheerleading.
    Our whole operation as a city is so bush league.
    What in the actual hell is going on in this town??

  6. I guess we are screwed since our mayor and council are on a cost cutting/selling mission. Thank God I didn’t vote for him!

  7. I guess all the Mayor’s talk of risk assessments as nothing more than union rhetoric has now been exposed for the lie that it is. To Mayor Provenzano and council: follow the words of the Ontario Fire Chiefs and do the risk assessment. Perhaps then this council will stop being the laughing stock of the province.

    • A community risk assessment no doubt identifies hazards within the community. However mitigating those risks is still the job of our elected council.

  8. Fire Prevention 101……” Put them out before they start “….. Internationally proven to be the only guaranteed means of preventing fire loss and fire deaths…..A simple $10 working smoke alarm will save your life.

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