Mayor Christian Provenzano thinks the contention between the Sault Ste. Marie Professional Fire Fighters Association and the City has gone on long enough and wants to take a more active role in bringing both sides together. He has his work cut out for him especially following a vote Monday night ditching the idea of having a comprehensive risk assessment done in 2017, a year earlier than planned.
The motion was brought forward by Ross Romano and Marchy Bruni. ” I see no reason to delay the assessment at this time” Romano said.
It appears that most of council sides with Fire Chief Mike Figliola.
Voting against the motion included Steve Butland, Susan Myers, Paul Christian, Sandra Hollingsworth, Judy Hupponen, Matt Shoemaker , Frank Fata and the Mayor. Voting in favour were Lou Turco, Joe Krmpotich Ross Romano and Marchy Bruni.
Not all are convinced including Ross Romano. In light of a Ministry of Labour order asking the City to provide information on fire suppression interior attacks with three fire fighters instead of four per truck.
CAO Al Horsman said council will comply with the order and information that needs to be updated is all part of the realignment process. The City must respond by January 27, 2017.
Though Paul Christian voted against the motion, he was concerned over the Ministry of Labour order stating that the whole fire realignment plan called for the reduction of actual fire fighters (25 percent reduction by 2018) Christian called the whole situation “absurd”
Susan Myers was adamantly opposed to an early comprehensive risk assessment.
“i will not undermine the chief . I have confidence in the chief… I don’t care who’s asking for what and what they are asking for. I don’t support this resolution.”
Frank Fata also backs the Chief “I do value the opinion of the fire chief . I value his expertise . as we are speaking now we are getting emails from the association saying that we are being misled. I don’t think we are being misled . ”
SSM Professional Fire Fighters Association President questions the figures being put out by Figliola. In a letter to council delivered yesterday, Richard Bishop questions the Chief’s report to council. Total call volume is reported to be declining over the past 10 years according the report however the association says it has not. In 2014 there were 38 serious fires, in 2015 there were 51 and so far in 2016 there has been 46 fires. Call volumes are on the increase according to the association who logs the calls. The chief estimates there will be 2,400 by the end of the year while the association says there has been 2,600 so far with a month to go.
“Over the past year a lot has changed for fire fighters in Sault Ste. Marie; a job that is inherently dangerous has become unnecessarily more dangerous. It has been another busy year, and fires are trending upward in our uncertain economy. Civilian and fire fighter injuries are trending up as well, including 1 death and several close calls in 2016.” Bishop said.
With both sides still far apart on the realignment plan, Steve Butland commented this is the worse he’s seen in 30 years. “Is there some way both sides can come together and talk in some sort of respective manner?” Butland asked.
Mayor Provenzano echos that and wants both sides to come together for the better of the community. “I plan on becoming more involved to try to find a solution” the Mayor said to council.
“We believe council is being misled regarding the true implications of this realignment plan. Members of Parliament, the Ministry of Labour, former Fire Chiefs, a former Fire Marshall, a former Police Chief and the community at large have recognized the far-reaching impact it is already having on community and fire fighter safety.”Bishop writes.
Council will have to approve the expense of a comprehensive risk assessment pegged at between $130,000 to $140,000. The association would rather have it done by the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office at little to no expense. ” The Ontario Fire Marshall are not an independent third party” Figliola stressed.
It’s not clear just how the Mayor expects both sides to come to a resolution on the matter. As it stands, the Fire Realignment Plan will continue for two more years with the risk assessment being completed by the end of 2018.