Multiple applicants have reached out to SaultOnline after the hiring of the Sault Fire Chief Peter Johnson’s son, Ethan. They are concerned not only about the process, but the overall safety of the community as well.
Of those that reached out to us, two told us we could use their stories under anonymity as they did not want to affect their current positions at their respective departments or hamper future applications they may submit elsewhere. Given the attention this story has attracted both within the Community and well beyond, a request we can only agree to.
Both individuals grew up in Algoma, both had obtained over 20 years of firefighting experience, including with the Ministry of Natural Resources as well as fighting fires internationally. One of the two, who was an applicant to the Sault Fire Services at the same time as Ethan, has suggested that the whole process seemed to be tailored to the Fire Chief’s son getting the job.
“This past hiring process was delayed for his son to complete his training so he could qualify to apply. Just one more thing that adds to how tailored the process was around one particular individual,” they told SaultOnline. “I feel very upset at this because I took part in a job competition I thought should be fair. It’s held by the fire department. Some of the most respected and trusted members in society as we are lead to believe.”
Before Ethan, the most recent hire, Danielle Buckner, the city’s second female firefighter, also had experience with the Ministry of Natural Resources and a volunteer department.
Both were able to give some insight into what is required to even try to become a firefighter in Sault Ste. Marie during the the most recent hiring session.
“So just to be apart of that hiring process and the steps that come along with it, last summer I put my life on hold, taking time off from work to come to Sault Ste. Marie for 6 weeks, committing to the hiring process. That’s lost wages, time spent, costs of testing that happened in St. Catherine’s… all during a global pandemic,” said the applicant who appeared disillusioned at this outcome.
“The Fire Chief held an unfair hiring process, tailored for his son, where he gained the attention of many aspiring fire fighters to travel to Sault Ste. Marie during a global pandemic! These individuals, like myself, had spent a lot of money, time and commitment, and feel like it was for nothing. I think about this breech of trust the Fire Chief has committed upon the City and feel this is incredibly serious!… I don’t think I am the only one in my situation feeling the way I do.”
The other firefighter who still hopes that someday he can be a Sault Firefigher stated…
“Over 20 years of experience and I was told to get more experience and maybe next time I too could be a SSMFF.”
For the second time in less than 5 years, our fire department has become headline news, for the wrong reasons.
Former Sault Ste. Marie Fire Chief Mike Figliola was let go by the city and faced charges of fraud, uttering a forged document and breach of trust by a public official. These charges were later stayed by the judge at the recommendation of the crown attorney. He paid back the $1000 which was the bases of the fraud charge.
With both of our contacts each having respectively more than 20 years experience, one of them quipped that they have more experience than Ethan has been alive for.
“Now, seeing the recent history, and reputation that the current fire chief and previous fire chief have built for the department, I feel bad for the members working there because I know they are under the spot light right now… and not in a good way this time and are all embarrassed and ashamed of the where they work when this job is only supposed to instill pride and honour in the position.”
Their opinion is that the whole thing should go to court and either the Fire Chief or the Firefighter in question should be relieved of their duties.
“We all know, and have heard multiple times throughout our lives, it’s not what you know but who you know. That’s seems fine for a lot of businesses hiring, but when it comes down to hiring the best and most qualified for a job that pertains to protecting a city where those employees are paid by the city’s tax payers,” stated one of the individuals who reached out. “I believe and I’m sure most of the city residents agree they deserve the best suited when called upon. I think it’s clear, the chief broke an oath which every fire fighter is sworn into. He put being a good father first before a entire city.”