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

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BURLINGTON – In an open letter to the residents of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association president Rob Hyndman warns that Fire Chief Figliola’s comments about fire protection are dangerous and irresponsible.

“These comments are totally without basis in fact,” Hyndman said. “Properly trained fire service personnel, if adequately staffed and resourced, can, and will, save lives if they arrive on scene quickly.”

Hyndman was responding to statements made by Chief Figliola to council that “After 2 minutes in the house no one is going to get in and no one is going to get out… rescue is almost nonexistent… death has already occurred.”

In his open letter, Hyndman notes that the “gold standard” of public safety standards and research – the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – state that municipalities are adequately protected if specific numbers of fire service personnel arrive within specific time frames. These standards are supported by peer-reviewed research.

“Sault Ste. Marie residents deserve a fire service that is adequately staffed for their own protection,” Hyndman added. “Chief Figliola’s attitude seems defeatist, as though he’s given up on the thousands of families in Sault Ste. Marie who expect their fire service to arrive on scene to help save lives.”

An open letter to the residents of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario from the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association

Dear Sault Ste. Marie resident,

For the last several months the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association has watched the situation unfold in your community regarding your emergency services, specifically Fire and EMS. Unfortunately, given the lack of rational thought by your Fire Chief, we can no longer remain silent given the reckless and unsupported comments he made to city council last fall while selling his plan to slash almost 25 per cent of frontline firefighting resources in your city.

On Oct. 13, Chief Mike Figliola told council: “After 2 minutes in the house no one is going to get in and no one is going to get out… rescue is almost nonexistent… death has already occurred.”

This is a dangerous comment that is completely without basis in fact. It contradicts numerous science-based standards for fire department response and it dangerously dismisses the very real possibility that an adequately resourced fire department can, and will, save lives and property if they arrive on scene quickly with an adequate number of personnel.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1710 states that you and your family are adequately protected if the city can get four fire fighters to your door in four minutes and 15 to 17 on scene within eight minutes. Four firefighters on a fire truck has been the accepted best practice for urban fire departments in Ontario for some time now. Your city is quickly moving further and further away from this important public safety benchmark, saving you pennies on your taxes while risking significant hikes in your insurance rates.

In 2010, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted more than 60 full-scale, peer reviewed field experiments that validated NFPA 1710 staffing levels and proved that a team of four fire fighters arriving at your home can complete critical firefighting tasks such as getting water on the fire and conducting primary search significantly faster than two or three-person teams.

NFPA and NIST are the gold standard for public safety. Their standards and research are endorsed and followed by fire service organizations across North America, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. NFPA standards are also used by the insurance underwriters whose data determines your insurance rates.

Chief Figliola’s comment envisions a fire department that hopes a fire doesn’t occur, but consigns citizens to death (his word) if it does, without attempting to get an adequate number of personnel on scene quickly to enter a burning home to look for anyone who may be trapped.

It’s time to ask yourself if this is the level of fire protection you deem acceptable, a fire department led by a fire chief who is ready to give up on you and your family just two minutes after a fire has broken out. If not, then it’s time to phone city hall and demand the fire protection you deserve.

Rob Hyndman, President
Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association

49 COMMENTS

  1. So the OPFFA says the need full staffing to carry out their duties and save lives? Does that mean you will be held liable if you fail in your duties and someone dies in a fire? I mean, if you get to the fire with 4 trucks with four men apiece in 4 minutes there is no excuse for a death, is there? Or will they pull out the ” there was nothing we could do” excuse?

  2. The reality is this. The community needed more Paramedics. They are the experts in that community in medical care. The fire departments state they must have a minimum amount of staff for calls IN CASE a fire occurs and the Fire chief is stating he needs more Paramedics for the calls that ARE ACTUALLY happening. With the majority of fire calls being medical calls it makes sense to reinvest some of the finances to the appropriate medical responders as this chief has done. If fire is not responding to so many medical calls they will be available to do the fire responses. The OPFFA is actively trying to get Paramedics on Fire Trucks to justify their ever increasing budgets. Retention pay? Does the fire have trouble keeping people there? No they do not. There are no part timers in fire departments so every back fill is always overtime. More money wasted. 24 hour shifts where you have potential increased risk to patients. They can keep saying this is about the community or their patients but not once have I ever heard in a public forum the OPFFA trying to help resolve offload delay at hospitals or talk about community medicine Paramedic initiatives. How about first response vehicles in EMS which are far better ways for communities to spend money then the continuous addition of more money and more fire fighters.

    • Fully agree Jeff. With our ageing population we need more medical attention and we require more skilled paramedics and cross trained firefighters. Currently there is a war between the two which any municipality can ill afford. Hopefully the associations factions will recognise the associated cost and the need and help the transition instead of impeding it for personal gain.

    • Yes, we more paramedics. Yes, fire calls are down — though perhaps not this summer? But… This is one of the few instances I will present the “What if” argument.
      What if… We have a major fire. Is it sufficient to say “We can call in personnel from off-duty”? No.
      What if there are two fires at the same time?

    • In case a fire occurs??? You must not live in Sault Ste. Marie. With the offload delays in Sault Ste. Marie due to hospital issues not paramedic issues the increase in paramedics does not matter. It just means more trucks on offload delay at the hospital. Fire calls her up this year and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out just look at all the fires that have occurred this far in Sault Ste. Marie. I personally do not want my children to pass away in a fire because of lack of service brought on by an fire chief Who has no respect for life.

  3. Were I the fire chief in this instance, and promoting this 2 minute theory, it would be soundly attached to a fire protection strategy that actually provides an equivalent level of safety to make up for what appears to be a very poor adherence to building/fire codes- such as mandatory sprinklering. To state that is the reality without a plan makes no sense

  4. No one can answer the question of how fast a person has to escape a fire because there are too many variables but tests have shown that a small fire ignited in a seat cushion of a chair and allowed to grow and extend to other combustible furnishing in a typical living room generated enough heat and deadly smoke within just 3 minutes that occupants sleeping elsewhere in the home would likely have been overcome from the smoke if not awakened by a smoke alarm. Rule of thumb: You have approximately three minutes to escape a house fire that occurs at night when residents are sleeping. The earlier a smoke alarm alerts you of a fire, the more likely you will get out alive. Someone quoted many successful rescues, I wished they would produce some evidence. Most people are already out of the house when firefighters arrive. In many of these cases firefighters will then take the stand not to enter the home to douse the fire, but instead fight it from outside. Good safety stance but many homes and their belongings can be lost. Here is a link to offer some clarity: http://www.today.com/home/newer-homes-furniture-burn-faster-giving-you-less-time-escape-t65826

  5. I too often see the pumper truck and fire personal going to Metro & Pino,s for some awsome BB-Q lunches and suppers All on our tax dollars. And after getting all rested up on their shift at the Fire Dept of doing??????? . They go to their other high paying jobs such as electricians plumbers or what have you. Then back to work at the fire hall . How safe is that. If they have the energy to have 2 or more extremely well paying jobs, they surely are not doing much of anything at the fire hall. Just my observations Many of us know those who work at the fire dept, and know what I am talking about. If my house is on fire and my family is out and safe LET HER BURN!!! That’s what house insurance is for,

    • Hold on here…the idea of a firehall and firefighters is to save lives and hopefully the home too..you are trying to make it sound like they don’t work…what your idea of work is and mine is quite different..SAVE LIVES then SAVE the Home or what is left of it…maybe you should have to go through this experience to know what it is really all about !!!!!!!!! Let it burn is not the answer..and who cares if they take the firetruck to Pino’s ..if that is even true…they deserve a meal too and yet they are still ready & willing to go to the next FIRE !!! I wonder if the people responding actually WORK !!!!!!!!!!!

    • JJ,
      I don’t even know where to start with your STUPID comment. The guys purchase their own food with THEIR own money not “your tax dollars”. As for having a second or even third job, anyone is free to have as many jobs as they want. And as for being rested, my partner comes home exhausted many mornings because he’s been up most of the night dealing with medical calls, drunks, drug addicts and other unfortunate situations that are taking place, likely while your sleeping. It’s not the same”boys club” that it was 20 years ago. Get your shit straight before making stupid comments

  6. Ask him that if they were to do the same to him, his family, his community how would he feel, oh and ask him this right after he’s been stripped of everything, job, wages, old age pension etc. etc.

  7. This was said in October and they find it important to spill the beans in August? Interesting that it’s concerning to know now and not then…

  8. Sell Point Dechene Park that will cover some taxes the city needs sell the PUC Kathy Wynne would have already done it. Short term gain!! Why not improve Belluve Park have water rides available make it a water park run by a private public entity. City owns controlling shares. Clean up that dirty cesspool you call a pond invest in some grass sweepers or goose shit sweepers or get rid of the geese! Put in a public boat launch you can make some money from put docks in like at pine street !!! We need some thinkers on council not sitters, we have those we voted in provincially.

  9. More union whining. When will they realize they have bled the pot dry with their unrealistic salaries, stupid retention pay demands and over-the-top pension padding. The taxpayer is tired and broke, and the population is declining. Does this mean we want to see people die, or that we don’t recognize your contributions? Grow up already! Threatening us with higher home insurance premiums and daily every-growing death likelihoods. Really now. This is only about 1 thing and 1 thing only. Union contribution growth and protectionism. Nothing more. Nothing less. Kudos to those with the reality-based perspective to stand up to such nonsense. More of this will happen as the well continues to run dry. And obviously the firefighter ‘brotherhood’ have drank way too much of the koolaid to see what this is truly all about.

      • Can’t afford koolaid, Ed. It all goes to taxes to pay ridiculous salaries. Retention pay and gold plate pensions. Can’t even afford water.

    • Hey Bernie..how much savings on your taxes since the implementation of the chief’s cuts. I haven’t seen any. You won’t see any either. You are okay with your tax dollars paying his way to his home in another municipality. What do you think it cost us. Has his wages been reduced to reflect the reduction in staff he manages? How dedicated do you think he is to our community based on the fact that he has never lived here and probably never plans to? If efficiencies are what council is after then why do three members of fire management have vehicles they take home but are never seen at fires?

    • I don’t think it’s a union issue the NFPA, is not a union organization it is strictly a fire protection agency, that make standards for all fire departments to follow, to protect the firefighters and the public. It sounds like you don’t understand that.

      • ya but this chief never said he was gonna send 2 or 3 guys which is what the standards people say is optimal. This guy is just implying it to create fear. Too much politicing on every issue and nothing but bull gets communicated to us poor peons. I got to go with Bernie here. If you want to see waste, call and complain that someones firebowl smoke is getting in your window, the massive response will leave shaking your head, they break out all the toys.

  10. Is it too much to ask for just a simple fire department? Why should Sault have less service that everyone else in Ontario? Fires are down but not extinct. Revisit this in 10-15 years when fires are @ 0% and cars drive themselves with no accidents. Until then….provide the proper service!

  11. According to 2013 stats, SSM fire responded to 2700 calls , which is less than 2 calls per station per day (24 hrs) with the majority of calls under the “false alarm” category. Followed by fender benders and medical assistance to paramedics… With the average fire every 5.23 days (this includes trash bin fires, and other fires minor in nature). A huge operations budget with the majority of calls “routine” in nature, cue the overpaid underworked union guys in 3….2……1. I hope you don’t need cut out of a car (maybe a few times per year), carbon monoxide alarm scare mongering, and other union rhetoric fear tactics…… Go cook a big meal, workout , watch a movie and have a nap. That’s what firefighters do . My brother in law and cousin are both firemen in big cities, this is right from their mouths. The gig is up, unless you can scare the public more.

  12. Simple. I accept the fire chiefs resignation as he is not fit to do the job. He has put his own career and salary before the lives of the community he serves and swore to protect.
    Mayor Provinzano I think you will not see another term as you are allowing this and many other negativity especially to our community.

  13. Mike Figliola was in my recruit class in Toronto in 1985. His brain was still intact at that time. His two minute comment is absolutely the rambling of an idiot. Perhaps these twisted thoughts are why he had to leave Toronto Fire department. They would be unforgivable here.

  14. The Chief seems to have created a hostile work environment, in the field of fire fighting this could prove deadly. Personally, the closed door comments were rather disturbing. 2 minutes or less or its death. wow. If the new direction of services is to ran strictly from an accounting perspective then all city employees,as well as Mayor and council should be audited. Surely, many are over compensated or redundant.

  15. There are rescues from fires made on a regular basis across Ontario. What this fire chief is advocating effectively eliminates the concept of rescue in the event of a fire. People in Sault Ste. Marie and the Mayor and Council of Sault Ste. Marie are relying on his “expert” advice as the fire chief. Any fire in the Sault that results in any injury or death should be investigated for criminal negligence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Any fire with loss in the Sault should be investigated from the perspective of the adequacy of response and the impact of an inadequate response on the quantum of damages. Every person in Sault Ste. Marie shoud call their member of Council and ask that member if they are relying on the “expertise” of the fire chief when they are assessing risk and determining the level of fire service in the city of Sault Ste. Marie. The “buck stops” at the Mayor and Council.

  16. Sick and tired of fire union thugs trying to protect their jobs even though fires have decreased by more than 30% in the last decade. Firefighters chase ambulances around to justify their existence. We no longer need standing armies of idle firefighters who fight a fire once in a blue moon then have to announce it to the world.

    • I used to feel the same way Brian, ignore the messages and rhetoric at first.
      I suggest you try to have an open mind and research the Chiefs stats and that of the firefighters. Even the association of Fire Chiefs (to which he should be part of) does not agree with this.

      You are of course entitled to your opinion.

      I applaud these organizations for sticking up for their citizens. Mayor and council certainly are not. I am thoroughly disappointed and absolutely disgusted by this mayor and council on all things lately. Don’t feed the pigeons, sell Bellevue park, overages and fines for software, more management hired and less labourers to do the work.

      Elections can’t come soon enough.

      I also heard that gentleman that was rescued the other day actually was taken to hospital. Be interesting to see if there is a follow up or investigation on that. I pray he is on the mend shortly.

      I also don’t see any argument with EMS and medical calls, they actually agreed we needed more staff. They never disputed that.

      I’m not sure if you are from the Sault Brian but the call volume trend here is on the increase. Maybe over Canada wide it may be on the decline , but here in the Sault the trend is upwards according to the information researched here that was provided by the association. The Chief seems to be very vague with his stats, and not using actual local occurrences. I may be wrong but I will continue to watch this with great interest, as is a large audience across the province and Canada.
      It’s never too late council and mayor to reverse this ‘fluid’ plan. Don’t let your arrogance stand in the way please. Let’s do the assessment and review the options, let the public know what they are and costs/risks associated with each. At least we will know what we can expect. This all seems quite foggy right now.

      Ed

    • If you have no idea what you are talking about you probably shouldn’t comment! There has been an increase of fires in the last few months, all of the man power is being used up and the fire dept. Is calling in overtime constantly!

    • Drive safely. I’d hate for you to have an accident and need a firefighter to cut the car away from you. And make sure your home heating system is tip top. I’d hate for you to have a carbon monoxide emergency. Don’t dare take an elevator you could get trapped in!! Oh and the swim you were gonna take the family on? Much to dangerous. Someone could drown! And when the fire truck chases the ambulance, that should stop! We should put more ambulances at every call when a very large person on the second floor of their home needs to be carried down the stairs. The people with other medical emergencies at that time can just wait. It will all work out. Are you getting the point or should I keep going?

  17. Him, that shady Fata trying to sell off Bellevue park and the rest of city council can all quit with no one shedding a tear. Get rid off the old boys club and back room dealings and maybe this city can actually grow and prosper. Instead I have my property taxes jacked up and less services to show for it.

  18. O.K fire the guy , hire on a Donald type fire chief hellbent on raising his status to the electorate ,hire on 75 more firemen to cover whatever might happen, hire on equal numbers of police , and 75 more for any city department that might feel neglected or overworked , come on folks the taxpayers are rich we can afford all the frills the unions throw at us, just give till it hurts and you wil all be safe. From one disgusted taxpayer.

  19. This once again is union scare tactics. The local firefighters union has been battling the cuts to their membership since the beginning by using scare tactics. Now they are trying to support their union position by getting another union rep to say the same thing. What next….hire an “impartial 3rd party” who is known to support the firefighters union (when they pay him enough) to say the same thing??? Wait, they already tried that!!

    Yes cutting firefighters and closing fire halls is a bad thing….so maybe they’ll all agree to reduce their pay 10% so that the city can afford them? Otherwise, the city is doing what they have to in order to balance the books. There will be more cuts to services over the next few years as well!

    • I believe the city gets a few options to chose from the assessment. So I wouldn’t say it need be a ‘firefighter friendly’ organization. At the end of the day the city will decide what level it wants but will be well informed with correct statistics. I don’t really see a downside to this. Maybe in the end it all stays the same.

    • Exactly. Let these professional unions stand in front of cameras and those in need and those that pay their higher-than-ridiculous salaries with retention pay and pensions no one else will ever see. Let them see how much money is available from taxes to pay for what it takes to provide ‘necessary services’ to those in need. Let the union leaders then, in front of everyone else, take some money from daycare or food banks or the hospital or elderly housing plans, and stuff it in their pockets. Then, let’s see how much public support they have. This is outrageous. The Fire Captain and Mayor need to stay for having the strength to speak to reality. The Union is what must go.

      • I believe all these people are advocating for all the vulnerable in the community, they would stand in front of everybody if they were ever allowed standing at council, I believe they just donated huge to the soup kitchen not too long ago and assist those in need that fall through the cracks of social assistance through their charity Union accounts.
        I’m sorry Bernie but now you seem quite misinformed on all levels and just on a one-way mission to trash these guys. Sorry you feel so angry towards this organization.

        Ed

  20. Well said OPFFA! Thank you, someone had to say it! This chief is ridiculous, and I agree that closing the Tancred station is the last straw! He’s gotta go.
    PS- I liked the photo you used before where he is sitting there with his glum face. that photo suits him best.

  21. I started out kinda on his side in this thing but after listening to some of his comments and hearing some of what he wants to do in the future I’m beginning to wonder about his marble count. Closing the Tancred st station was the last straw.

    • His cheese has slid off the cracker, he is in his own little fantasy world and won’t comment on any of his decisions because he is afraid that he will lose his job in two minutes flat.

  22. Terminate the bum he is no good for the Sault, he can be the fire chief of Thessalon where he lives.
    We never had any issues before he arrived, now it’s daily mayhem.

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