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