Someone has to stand up!

20

I have lost count at how many articles I have written on the proposed and current cutbacks in the fire services. These stories have been getting members of the city quite upset in the comments related to them. Also I have been personally attacked on my journalistic integrity. That’s fine. People are entitled to their opinion but I have to set things into prospective.

The average age of a firefighter is 63 last time I checked. Actually firefighters have shorter life expectancies than the average population and are three times more likely to die on the job, due to inherent risks, physical and mental stresses, and exposures to toxic and carcinogenic compounds released in smoke.

Regardless of their pay, they, as do police officers, go into situations where they never know the outcome and we have had deaths in the community resulting from exposure to bi-products of combustion.

They are currently going into these fires with too few on a truck and antiquated breathing apparatus; steel bottles and harnesses that are two to three generations old.

There was an incident recently where local firefighters had to contain a fire where there was asbestos. Their breathing apparatus is not going to take that out of the air. Add with it all the new polymers and plastics that are full of neurotoxins, when on fire, and you have a firefighter that is going to have health-related issues down the road.

But let’s go ahead and cut the fire department of a fire hall, two trucks and 20 positions and make their job harder.

They are fighting in 1,100 degree fires. And don’t let the statements of our fire chief fool you. There have been numerous cases of 2 or more fires at one time in this city in the past.

Do we have to lose a home or a life before this has been brought to our attention?

The proposed cut of the fire hall on Tancred Street doesn’t seem to make any sense to me. We have train tracks on both sides of the east, west, north and south firehalls and many high rise buildings downtown.

70 East Street is a 17-story building with elderly and some bed-ridden people. How are we going to fight a blaze at a building so tall when our ladders on our fire trucks are only good for 8 stories? The Tancred hall has this component, maybe not long enough, but it’s still there.

City council has been fooled by numbers. We use our EDF fund to give away money to whomever come who may, and yet cutting fire services seems to be a worthwhile non-investment.

The boat that the fire service had was said to be a liability in the words of the chief because it had two props that turned in the same direction. According to research done, this can’t be further from the truth. So there is another piece of equipment and firefighting capability that has been dumped.

And the fact that we have not had a fire underwriters survey since 1989 is appalling.

You can guarantee that your insurance rates are going to go up when you see the cutbacks that are currently being looked at. And how could they not? Closing a fire hall is what? going to make them go down?

The image of a skeleton crew that got so many of you riled up and starting questioning my abilities was not to show that nobody else was fighting this fire. It was to show that we only sent out 3 people on a truck instead of the NFPA standards of 4. In the past and in other cities they send out 5 or 6 on a truck. There may have been more trucks that arrived to contain the fire but we sent three to start, with one firefighter going in to fight it. That breaks the buddy-system and is scary.

What business, people from the boating community or homeowner is going to want to come to the Sault knowing these are the tactics that our firefighters are forced to go through, directed by administration.

In the absence of defensible fact based research based on the city’s fire risk, NFPA Standards, and a recommendation from the Office of the Fire Marshal, the strategy to reduce fire protection services is unsubstantiated, and has the potential to threaten lives, property, and the environment.  Is this the community we want to raise our families in?  Is this a community that would attract tourism and new business ventures, given the drastic reduction in fire protection services?

20 COMMENTS

  1. Being from ward three outside the urban service line, I too have been watching this unfold. I have tried to engage my ward 3 councilors and mayor with no response. I have watched the “behind closed doors” video and subsequently felt it necessary to spend my own time and resources to research NFPA 1710, the safety issue of 2 right handed propellers on a boat, and the ramifications of the fire department eliminating direct monitored alarms for vulnerable occupancies.
    Like many I have spoken with, I have come to the conclusion this chief was hired from out of town and resides out of town to do the mayor’s bidding. Not only is the chief not being held accountable for his inconsistencies and half-truths, the mayor seems to stifle any and all who question him. This is certainly not how a democracy should work.
    All these reductions were done for what – to save money? Well if this is true – why does the 2016 Fire budget stay virtually the same.
    Not only does there seem to be creative cuts to service, but there seems to be some creative accounting as well.
    Thank you Mr. Shoust for helping shed some light on this before next election!

  2. 5 or 6 firefighters per truck in other cities is a complete lie. We cannot afford to have fire unions and archaic fire response systems drain our city coffers as fire department call statistics continue to drop annually yet firefighters are looking to remain untouchable and prevent layoffs with whatever fear mongering they can muster up. Enough is enough!!! I’m so sick of the fire unions!!! A change is occurring…. People aren’t supporting firefighters like they used to. This is directly a result from the fire unions.

    • Your insurance premiums are based on risk and available resources. If you increase the risk and deplete your resources then the insurance company has to raise the premiums to offset the increase in claims. It is not logical to pay larger premiums to the insurance companies to save little on city taxes. At the end of the day its a wash. If you don’t understand the concept, call for an insurance quote in a community that has limited fire protection and see the difference in rates. I used to live outside the Soo and I saw first hand how this plays out. Have you seen a reduction in your taxes from the recent cuts? Mine went up, where is the logic in your statements?

  3. Throughout the years, there has been a significant shift in fire emergencies due to education and changes in heating trends such as use of a wood stove. In the past 35 years, there has been a decrease in fires by 40%. (ref. http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/07/firefighters-dont-fight-fires.html) Buildings follow a higher safety standard than they did in the past. The shift has been so significant that communities have asked fire department to aid paramedics with calls in order to prove their worth.

    Firefighting education has changed the way they fight fires now. Firefightesr aren’t risking their life for a building that an insurance companies are going to replace anyways. That being said, there is no argument that they are now more at risk. Cities and communities provide a great service with a volunteer system. The response time between fulltime and volunteer is not much better when the call is at 3 am.

    Don’t argue that asbestos is breathed in if they wear their SCBA! If the firefighter has been well trained, this is not happening. The people in danger at this point are the bystanders and anyone else smelling the smoke while standing around.

    I’m tired of the pushing we get from the firefighter’s union telling us what we should and shouldn’t do. It’s about time a council stood up to them and said “Enough!”.

    • I haven’t responded at all to any of this drama that has been going on for awhile now. But, I’ve noticed the message has stayed the same from the FF’s Union throughout, do the assessment, get the results and tell your citizens the options, costs and risks associated with the completed study. I was Leary at first with the union rhetoric but, I did some of my own research on stats and statements made by the chief and there are quite a few half truths and outright lies that have been told. I would be comfortable knowing what my options are, what risks are associated with each option and go from there. I may not choose 137 ff on staff that may be recommended as a best option but at least I will know possible outcomes and realities from a reduced staff and service. I’m not so naive to believe the chief in stating that the service and response will not change from reduced cuts. I’m actually offended by mayor and the Chiefs take on this, do they think we’re all a bunch of country bumpkins here or what? I know the cuts will affect service but what specifically? What services will they no longer provide? The city and the chief need to be more forthcoming and upfront with what we can and cannot expect from this proposed hall closure (if it happens) and reductions in staff. Maybe we can leave well enough alone for now in this department and look at others?
      If we go down to a staff of only 9 on duty firefighters and 1 platoon chief we may as well go all volunteer as ‘Bob’ has stated but I would rather have somebody ready to go and waiting at a hall then leave his or her house, drive in from wherever and then respond.

      Let’s do the homework, present the options and decide what we are comfortable with for risk and funding with our tax dollars.

      Ed

  4. With the population shrinking dramatically, cuts need to be made everywhere. Union-protected fire services included! There are only so many tax dollars to go around. If money wasn’t an issue, the fire halls would be replacing Tim Horton’s on every 2nd corner of the city (if the union had their way). Threatening us with home insurance increases and dire death scenarios…really now. Grow up. It always seems to be those that are paid WITH tax dollars that are always so out of touch with reality. (compared to those of us that actually pay taxes…)

      • Yep. They reach down into the ‘bottomless pit’ grab huge handfuls, and let a bit trickle back in, (to fund their unrealistic pensions), under the guise that they actually pay taxes…but they really don’t…

        • You’re jealous that you don’t have a government job!, even though they do get skinned for taxes the way the rest of us do.

  5. I have read many of the articles Christopher has written about our Sault Ste Marie Fire Dept. and have viewed the closed door session video of the current Fire Chiefs logic behind his recommendation to reduce the force. I don’t normally comment on these forums but feel obligated to do so in regards to this important issue.
    Although I have never worked in Fire Services I have had many opportunities to watch our Sault Fire Services in action, both in our residential areas and our steel plant which I have worked in for many years.
    Although the current Fire Chief mentions survival rates after 2 minutes in a house being slim in his closed door video, a quick as possible response is still paramount to try to save lives and minimize other residences close to the fire scene from suffering a similar fate. One example I witnessed very close to my home was a house fire that broke out quickly in a kitchen area. There was a 40-60k wind blowing that day and lawns were dry and brown. The flames lit shrubs beside the house on fire and the hot embers were igniting lawns on fire across the street due to the high wind. Fortunately the residents of the house escaped quickly.
    Although the fire department was on scene within minutes I thought for sure the house would be gone and perhaps adjoining properties would ignite. The professionalism and discipline of those firefighters engaged and within minutes they had that fire contained and had roof access to the fire and rapidly reduced the threat to the neighborhood. Although the house had major interior damage it was saved and soon repaired.

    In regards our steel plant Security Service does an excellent job but their firefighting capabilities are extremely limited. On many occasions over the years there has been fires and gas explosions that required City Services. And when this happens the plant needs service NOW! Not a callout list.

    In addition the thought of closing a fire house down in our city’s downtown core I simply cannot fathom. Seniors complexes, apartment building and of course a huge mall and our beloved Queen Street business section put farther from fire services. I can’t believe the business community has not raised their concerns regards this potential change.
    Anyway, enough said on my part.
    Well done Mr. Shoust for raising this very important issue to the community and hopefully others will back their Sault Firefighters and raise their concerns to our Mayor and City Council to keep us all safe going forward.

  6. If Essar had been a good corporate citizen and paid their taxes instead of stiffing the city would we still be facing all of these panic cuts?

  7. Bill, it’s Mr. Shoust’s “column” and as such he can express whatever opinion he wants to. Not biased at all. Do yourself a favour and research the many sources Mr. Shoust references; NFPA 1710 would be a good start. Follow that up with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s guidlines on response by a full-time fire department to a reported structure fire.

  8. And , as an afterthought, I will say that I very much disagree with closing the Tancred station and stopping water rescue on the river..Hell, the Tancred station is right on the waterfront and can get there faster than anyone else, hands down.. But I felt that way as soon as I heard about it, long before all the one-sided journalistic crap started.. The boat thing especially was assinine to the unth degree…

  9. And , as an afterthought, I will say that I very much disagree with closing the Tancred station and stopping water rescue on the river..Hell, the Tancred station is right on the waterfront and can get there faster than anyone else, hands down.. But I felt that way as soon as I heard about it, long before all the one-sided journalistic crap started.. The boat thing especially was assinine to the unth degree…

  10. Mr Shoust, stick with your artistic career, as your very biased reporting style won’t get you far in the journalistic field.. A soap box in the village square would seem to fit you much better. It’s not that I totally disagree with what you say, its more that you should be impartial to be a good reporter. You aren’t so much reporting news as totally taking the firefighters union side. Sorta makes a lot of people take not take you very seriously, as middle of the road informative reporting would, I’m sure.Yes, the city needs to get it’s act together, but so does the firefighters union.. I never voted for them to run the city, which they are attempting to do…

    • Bill. As I watch all that goes on in this seemingly never-ending delivery of information on the Fire Services of Sault Ste Marie, I see you have good points on both sides of the campaign. I applaud you for looking at both sides from your point of view as I have seen your posts for both sides of this matter.
      The one thing missing from all this, is the City of Sault Ste Marie’s view. They seem to want to stick with their original plan and there do not appear to be any talks. The City does not comment on the subject leading one to believe that their plan is set in stone with no room for input. At the onset, if you look back to the beginning, the City stated that the plan was fluid, leaving room for adjustments. So far there doesn’t appear to be any discussion even with all the information that has been put out to us to review. Mr Shoust, I believe, is putting out the only side that is supplying any information. We can’t really fault him for that.
      Councillor Bruni has once again stated his opinion with a call for the Comprehensive Risk Assessment. The one thing that would probably settle the whole matter. Mr Bruni has not changed his opinion from day one.
      Yes, it appears that the articles on this news source may be one sided, but that usually occurs when only one side will contribute to the story.
      It may be in all of our best interests to have this Assessment done. Our insurance may not rise, people may not lose their homes, lives may not be lost.
      I personally would like to see the proper thing done, whether it’s the Assessment, or merely a matter of the two sides sitting down and ironing this out civilly.
      I would urge Mr Shoust to continue to put out information and request the City to offer up their whole plan for the delivery of our emergency fire service. I would prefer to hear the what the City has to say regarding the lack of talks and discussion between the two sides. That way I could maybe form an better opinion on what exactly is happening.

  11. I don’t know why the city is doing this …save money but you can’t save lives if no firefighters and not enough firetrucks…I don’t want to see a tragedy happen …LEAVE THE FIRE TRUCKS & FIREMEN ALONE !!!!!! It could be your child or parent or YOU !!!!! Does something terrible need to happen before they will realize that you cannot cut necessities!!!!! I certainly hope not …

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