Back on track with train­ing

Spa­niard’s Bay fire depart­ment looks to catch up as dead­line looms


Min­i­mum stan­dards

The Spa­niard’s Bay Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment ap­pears to be mov­ing for­ward with ef­forts to bring the train­ing of its mem­bers in line with stan­dards set by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment that all fire de­part­ments must com­ply with by the be­gin­ning of Au­gust.

Eight mem­bers of the fire depart­ment, in­clud­ing Fire Chief Vic­tor His­cock, were on hand for a two-day train­ing session hosted by the Cavendish vol­un­teer fire depart­ment March 26-27 (see re­lated story on B1). Ex­clud­ing mem­bers of the host brigade, the Spa­niard’s Bay group was the sec­ond-largest con­tin­gent at the train­ing session.

The em­pha­size on train­ing comes af­ter mem­bers of the town coun­cil raised con­cerns late last year about the brigade’s level of pre­pared­ness. The brigade was also in the spot­light last week af­ter an ar­ti­cle in the March 29 edi­tion of The Com­pass, head­lined “Fric­tion in the fire brigade,” re­ported on the dis­missal and sub­se­quent re­in­state­ment of Brenda Sey­mour.

A new set of min­i­mum stan­dards came into ef­fect on Aug. 1, 2009, out­lin­ing the min­i­mum train­ing stan­dards nec­es­sary for fire­fight­ers in or­der to safely func­tion in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.

All fire­fight­ers in the prov­ince must have the nec­es­sary train­ing to com­ply with the stan­dards by Aug. 1, 2011. Ad­di­tion­ally, all fire­fight­ers that joined a lo­cal depart­ment af­ter Aug. 1, 2009 had to com­ply with min­i­mum stan­dards within six months of their start date.

Un­der that leg­is­la­tion, the new fire­fight­ers are also pro­hib­ited from at­tend­ing an emer­gency scene be­fore reach­ing the Ori­en­ta­tion Level. Brenda Sey­mour, who is also a town coun­cil­lor in Spa­niard’s Bay, said the depart­ment has not fol­lowed this direc­tive, as new fire­fight­ers with­out the re­quired train­ing have at­tended emer­gency scenes.

Sey­mour pre­sented con­cerns to coun­cil in a priv­i­leged meet­ing on May 3, 2010, out­lin­ing con­cerns re­gard­ing the op­er­a­tions of the depart­ment. The doc­u­ment she brought to the meet­ing is in­cluded as an ap­pen­dix item in the study on her dis­missal and sus­pen­sion from the fire depart­ment last year. She was re­in­stated in Jan­uary based on the study’s find­ings.

In the doc­u­ment, Sey­mour wrote that in­for­ma­tion book­lets on min­i­mum stan­dard train­ing from the Fire Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice ar­rived at the town hall prior to Aug. 1, 2009. At a meet­ing later that year, she wrote that some mem­bers asked for the book­lets, to which the chief re­spond- ed that the “ books would be dis­trib­uted when he was ready and that there was no point in giv­ing them out if he was not pre­pared to go over it yet.”

As of the May 3 meet­ing, the book­lets had yet to be dis­trib­uted or dis­cussed at a mem­ber­ship meet­ing of the fire depart­ment, ac­cord­ing to Sey­mour.

Chief His­cock was con­tacted by The Com­pass last week, but de­clined an in­ter­view. But in an in­ter­view late last year, he said the depart­ment holds weekly in-house train­ing ses­sions on Thurs­days. He said the avail­abil­ity of mem­bers to take train­ing cour­ses in the sum­mer was re­duced be­cause of work com­mit­ments.

In her doc­u­ment from the May 3 coun­cil meet­ing, Sey­mour claims that the cap­tain and both lieu­tenants on the depart­ment had lim­ited train­ing them­selves, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ef­fi­ciently train oth­ers.

“ It is ques­tion­able as to whether they are qual­i­fied to hold the po­si­tions,” she wrote.

Fund­ing could be with­held

In an e-mail to The Com­pass, Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Kevin O’Brien said the ef­fec­tive­ness of in­house train­ing de­pends on the level of train­ing and the ca­pac­ity of the in­house in­struc­tors, as well as the level of ser­vice de­manded by the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil.

“ For ex­am­ple, a fire depart­ment like Grand Falls-Wind­sor has 25-30 fire­fight­ers cer­ti­fied to all lev­els of na­tional stan­dards,” wrote the min­is­ter. “A smaller fire depart­ment who may not have par­tic­i­pated in train­ing or have the same ca­pac­ity to ad­min­is­ter a strong train­ing pro­gram would not have the same ca­pa­bil­i­ties to pro­vide all re­quired train­ing in-house.”

To help along the process, O’Brien said the prov­ince has held Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices Train­ing School twice an­nu­ally in re­gional lo­ca­tions.

“ The safety of fire­fight­ers and the com­mu­ni­ties they pro­tect is of the ut­most im­por­tance to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. Fire de­part­ments are a mu­nic­i­pal re­spon­si­bil­ity and it is for coun­cils and com­mit­tees to en­sure com­pli­ance in the best in­ter­est of the ser­vice,” O’Brien ex­plained.

In re­cent years, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment has dis­trib­uted mil­lions of dol­lars to fire de­part­ments across the prov­ince to help meet cap­i­tal needs. While O’Brien said there is no di­rect con­se­quence for non-com­pli­ance with min­i­mum stan­dards, it can af­fect the “ like­li­hood of their depart­ment to re­ceive fund­ing un­der the pro­vin­cial pro­gram.”

Spa­niard’s Bay Mayor John Drover did not re­spond to sev­eral phone mes­sages from The Com­pass last week.

Speak­ing af­ter the March 21 coun­cil meet­ing, he said the depart­ment and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of coun­cil have been in­volved in meet­ings, look­ing at how the fire depart­ment can be im­proved.

“ The thing about it to­day is that li­a­bil­ity is such a big is­sue,” he said at the time. “ We want to work in con­junc­tion with the fire depart­ment and do our best to serve the town.”

The mayor was con­fi­dent that mat­ters with the depart­ment were mov­ing for­ward in a pos­i­tive man­ner.

“ We ran into a few prob­lems, but things are com­ing to­gether, and I think we’re on the right track with it now. We’re meet­ing with the fire depart­ment to make sure we let them know what’s go­ing on and they let us know what’s go­ing on. When you have both par­ties work­ing to­gether, things can only get bet­ter.”

The Spa­niard’s Bay Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment par­tic­i­pated in a re­cent de­fen­sive fire­fight­ing train­ing session in Cavendish. The depart­ment, like all oth­ers in the prov­ince, must be com­pli­ant with new min­i­mum stan­dards reg­u­la­tions by Aug. 1.

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