Consultant says current CBRM fire service ‘not tenable.’
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.