Burn­ing is­sue

Con­sul­tant says cur­rent CBRM fire ser­vice ‘not ten­able.’

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING

The Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s fire ser­vice as it ex­ists is not ten­able and changes will need to be made to make it more sus­tain­able, says a con­sul­tant.

An or­ga­ni­za­tional re­view of the fire ser­vice is rec­om­mend­ing some ma­jor changes, but ev­ery­one in­volved says they need time to con­sider the find­ings to en­sure any changes are im­ple­mented in the right way.

Con­sul­tant Charles Jen­nings of Man­i­tou Inc., of Peek skill, N. Y ., pre­sented a sum­mary of his al­most 300- page re­port to the CBRM’s fire and emer­gency ser­vices com­mit­tee Wed­nes­day. The re­port came af­ter two site vis­its to Cape Bre­ton, in De­cem­ber and Jan­uary, which in­cluded meet­ing with lo­cal fire chiefs and mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials.

Jen­nings stressed that the study is the be­gin­ning of a process that could un­fold over sev­eral years.

“While there may be ar­eas of dis­agree­ment, I think that there is general con­sen­sus around the idea that the situation as it ex­ists today is not ten­able and that we need to move for­ward,” he said.

“There’s go­ing to be give and take, there’s go­ing to be twists and turns … it’s go­ing to be a long- term process but we need to start on that process.”

The ser­vice is cur­rently a mix of pro­fes­sional, vol­un­teer and com­pos­ite de­part­ments.

While ser­vices are be­ing de­liv­ered, Jen­nings found that in some de­part­ments there dif­fi­culty get­ting mem­bers or hav­ing mem­bers avail­able, and fund­ing con­straints pose very real chal­lenges.

Amal­ga­ma­tion was cited as a ma­jor con­cern. The re­port notes there is po­ten­tial for con­sol­i­da­tion of fire de­part­ments in North­side East BayEast Bay, Cox­heath- Syd­ney River, and Scotch­town- New Water­ford- New Vic­to­ria, based on prox­im­ity.

“Frankly, we didn’t think that there was enough in­for­ma­tion cur­rently col­lected about how the sys­tem op­er­ates to jus­tify do­ing that, the po­ten­tial down­sides,” Jen­nings said.

The CBRM has a largely vol- un­teer- driven fire ser­vice.

Jen­nings said the CBRM needs to look at pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional sup­port to the vol­un­teer com­ple­ment to en­able them to avoid hav­ing to be so re­liant on their own fundrais­ing, as well as to help sup­port a lot of the ad­min­is­tra­tive work and pro­vid­ing bet­ter trans­parency to the pub­lic to prove they’re de­liv­er­ing value for money.

Jen­nings is due to present his re­port to the CBRM Fire Chief As­so­ci­a­tion at a meet­ing today.

As­so­ci­a­tion chair Ge­orge Muise said he was look­ing for­ward to get­ting feed­back from the full group.

“There’s a lot of good qual­i­ties that we see in the re­port, there’s a lot of items there that we see that need fur­ther dis­cus­sion,” he said. “We know that we can’t en­act some of these things all at once.”

Muise who is chief of the haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als re­sponse team, said they re­al­ize the con­straints of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and they’re will­ing to help work to­ward the ob­jec­tives iden­ti­fied in the re­port over the long term.

“We don’t want to move too quickly and make changes that aren’t ap­pro­pri­ate,” he said.

Muise didn’t want to dis­cuss the rec­om­men­da­tions in de­tail un­til he the chiefs have a chance to dis­cuss them.


Mem­bers of lo­cal fire de­part­ments were on hand Wed­nes­day as the find­ings of a study re­view­ing CBRM fire ser­vices was de­liv­ered at coun­cil cham­bers.



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