OPFFA fires back at Association of Fire Chiefs

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Tonight SaultOnline.com published a letter entitled “Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs takes exception to OPFFA President Hyndman.”

The letter was a response to Hyndman’s comments earlier this week in the name of the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association, which was addressed to the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie where he was disturbed by Sault Fire Chief Mike Figliola’s now famous comments in closed-council that “after 2 minutes no one is getting in and no one is getting out…rescue is almost nonexistent… death has already occurred.”

Frankly, it took about 20 minutes for SaultOnline.com to get a call from the OPFFA because they were deeply troubled with what the Fire Chiefs had to say and are worried about the residents of Sault Ste. Marie as well as the firefighters.

OPFFA president Hyndman (pictured) looked at the letter very closely and said “there’s a lot of words here but unfortunately they are not actually saying anything.”

Hyndman referred to the famous quote of the fire chief Figliola and would like to pose a simple question to the Urban Chiefs that make up the OAFC and that is “do you agree and support that after two minutes rescue is almost non-existent, death has already occurred.”

The discussion was quite frank and open about many things the fire chiefs had to say and about a meeting that Hyndman had with Figliola and the director of Human Resources back on December 11th, 2015.

Now this was two months after the chief made his famous comments in closed-council that was investigated by the Ontario Ombudsman.

At that December 11th meeting Hyndman was representing the International Association of Firefighters with Peter Osterberg of the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association and members of the Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighters Association.

Hyndman and Osterberg specifically discussed the three lines of defence, what plan the department had put forward to communicate that rescue could not occur under the new staffing levels,  a comprehensive risk assessment, what the department had done to reduce the risk in the community to correspond with the reduction in staff, and public information among other things.  At the end of these questions and prior to reconvening the meeting after a lunch break, Figliola and Peter Niro asked Hyndman and Osterberg not to return.

“We were extremely disappointed in the direction of the administration,” Hyndman said, “in my opinion, the administration had no interest in evidence based discussions, their conclusions were already drawn.”

Now, Hyndman is deeply concerned at the “lack of objective thought,” by the fire chiefs association letter.

“At the end of the day, this is about the safety of the firefighters and the citizens,” he said, “the OAFC is talking about Office of the Fire Marshal directives on the three lines of defense that any visit to their website will clearly show that they are under review.”

Hyndman challenged the OAFCs position on his understanding of the three lines of defense by saying, “I graduated the Public Fire and Life Safety Educator program from the Ontario Fire College, I spent almost 5 years in my home community as a Public Educator for my Fire Service and I have developed, implemented and delivered numerous public education programs to a wide demographic of my community.”

Hyndman is concerned that the OAFC is now promoting a risk assessment, which is what former Fire Marshal Pat Burke was saying was needed but the decision makers in the Sault declined.

It was also only a few days ago that Sault mayor Christian Provenzano also declined to comment on the current OPFFA stance.

Hyndman also questioned the OAFCs position on NIST and NFPA, “NFPA standards are used across the spectrum of fire protection, whether it be bunker boots, fire extinguishers or kitchen hood systems.  For anyone to take the position that all of these standards are the industry best practice but, for a reason they fail to explain, the standard on staffing is not, is disingenuous at best.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. Firefighting is an honourable, rewarding and well paying job. For those that wish to down play the relevance and state that firefighters aren’t a required service due to technology/fire protection devices, and reduced “fire” call volume- you’re rolling the dice and mistaken. Firefighters today aren’t solely hired to fight fires- they are expected to perform public education, fire protection inspections, familiarization of buildings, respond to car accidents, mutual aid, training, public assist calls & the ever growing “medical calls”.

    Structure fire incidents have decreased across the province, which can be contributed to occupants getting the message from their local fire departments about the dos & don’ts of fire safety.
    Take away firefighters from stations & you remove the link between fire safety & the public, resulting in an increase of fire calls at a time when your staffing isn’t capable of effectively handling them.
    It takes at least four to five crews (16-20) firefighters to effectively fight a single (residential) structure fire. The chief fails to account for the new fabrics our furniture is made of which has been proven to cause flashovers within a few minutes. Waiting for a crew to be called in on overtime to assist during a structure fire isn’t an option. Another safety issue is with the new construction floor joists made from chip board and glue. These joists don’t require direct flame to fail, they simply need sufficient heat which melts the glue and the floor gives way. Statistics prove we need more firefighters quickly upfront at a call to knock down the fire & cool the structure for occupant survival, and to reduce the amount of property loss-not less. I’m curious as to how the insurance company’s will respond to this Chiefs rash & uneducated decisions?
    Perhaps Sault Ste. Marie could save some money by having a part time fire chief who would only get paid when he’s responding and in command of an incident??
    For those that are misinformed about the fire service, the unfortunate increase in occupational cancers, along with increasing numbers of suicides linked to PTSD shows firefighting is a real and dangerous occupation. For anyone in denial- feel free to apply and experience the risks first hand.

  2. Firefighters have chosen a well paid profession but above all they choose to serve the community that pays their way.To deny these Frefighters the staff and resources to this is both dangerous and immoral. I have at times been in command of understaffed apparatus and faced the incredible stress of being unable to provide the most effective service to those depending on me until more help arrives. Until you live this situation best put aside comments that focus only on job security and eonomics. The Fire Dept. could be responding to assist you and your family next time. Trust me you want a fully staffed unit arriving in a timely fashion so that your Firefighters can provide the level of service to you that they so strongly desire to.

    • If this truly is the case then why is the OPFFA actively pursuing having Paramedics on every truck. If you have a fire while on a medical call what will you do? You can’t abandon that patient you are with. You can’t leave the Paramedic on scene as you have now said that responding with insufficient staff is dangerous. If you have Paramedics on a fire truck you must from a liability standpoint respond to every medical call which means higher call volumes, more equipment costs, increased wear and tear on vehicles and at the end of the day you may not be available for the rare fire suppression call. I guess the next argument would be then that you need more trucks with more staff costing communities massive amounts of money.

  3. This opffa union head only wants to protect jobs. He’s a darn union head, that’s their job! But don’t try and say its for the community, it’s not, it’s about firefighter jobs. Plain and simple.

    • It’s absolutely about jobs Ryan. It’s about having the right amount of jobs to carry out the same service.

      Ed

  4. OPFFA President Hyndman is absolutely correct in his assertions. Our current Fire Chief is putting Firefighters and the folks they serve at risk. Mayor and council must cease blindly following the Chief’s misguided direction. Retired Fire Marshal Burke , Mr. Hyndman and our own Sault Firefighters are not fear mongering…they are simply stating facts. Mayor and council get your heads out of the sand. I am a retired Fire Capt. fom Sudbury who chose to move to this city that I love…the Sault is my home …we must do the moral thing and ensure this city gets the protection it deserves. Cliff Curry. GSFS Capt. Ret.

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