Gan fire ends 24/7 shifts

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - WAYNE LOWRIE wlowrie@post­media.com

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.

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