Gan fire ends 24/7 shifts
GANANOQUE – The town’s fire department is ending its practice of having the station staffed by a firefighter 24 hours a day.
Town council voted on Tuesday to end the midnight shift that runs from 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. effective Nov. 19.
Fire Chief Steve Tiernan said the change would not affect the department’s response times, which averaged 5:35 minutes during the last three months.
Tiernan said he was able to recommend ending the midnight shift because of changes in the department’s protocol that he started last January.
Under the new rules, the town’s firefighters gather at the firehall, suit up, get their orders and head out to calls from there.
Tiernan described the new protocol as more efficient and safer than the old system in which the volunteers would head out directly to a fire call from their homes or work without stopping at the station first.
Under the old system, the onduty firefighter would drive the equipment to the call and meet the volunteers there. But since the firefighters are gathering at the station first, there’s no need to have that duty firefighter on shift.
Tiernan said the new system is better. The firefighters can arrive at the scene already in their bunker gear, briefed and ready to go to work, he said.
The chief said he has reviewed the department’s response-time statistics over the past 10 years, and the times averaged 6½ to 7½ minutes. With the new meet-atthe-station rules, the times are the same or better, he said.
Tiernan noted that Gananoque is only seven kilometres square, so it doesn’t take long for trucks to get anywhere in town.
He also provided council with a comparison chart of other volunteer departments in Eastern Ontario and almost none have a midnight shift. The sole exception is Smiths Falls but that firefighter also has dispatching duties, he said.
Many of the surrounding fire departments have a chief as their only full-time employee. But others have fewer than that: For example, Prescott operates an all-volunteer force while the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands has a part-time chief.
In comparison, Gananoque had a chief and three professional firefighters but a month ago, 30-yearold fire veteran Dave Balderson retired from the department.
Shellee Fournier, chief administrative officer, said the end of the midnight shift means that the town won’t replace Balderson, leaving it with a chief and two pros.
The savings to the department will be about $146,000 a year, which will go into the department’s capital reserve, she said.