Cumberland to Wrestle with Fire Service Issues
Cumberland Council has agreed to create an advisory committee to deal with issues and concerns in the fire service.
Faced with discord and poor communication across the county, the committee will make operational recommendations to council. However, the county’s fire service coordinator, Mike Carter, told council the local fire departments have the final say in operations.
While the county assumed coordination of fire departments years ago, the effort centred on financial responsibility. Area fire rates were folded into the general budget and many fire departments stopped local fundraising programs, which had been the principal activity for firefighters.
In recent years, most departments re-energized their fundraising programs as the county budget failed to deliver on expectations, while council began to realize the massive demand to properly equip and train sixteen departments.
Differences of opinion were recently highlighted following the fire that destroyed the Shinimicas Fire Department. The local department, which built and equipped the original facility, wanted to relocate and enlarge its firehall with insurance proceeds. However negotiations bogged down over ownership as the county asserted its claim to the proposed new hall.
In the end, the two sides agreed the county would relinquish ownership only after construction debts were fully paid. This left other departments wondering about their status. Some own their buildings while others labour to equip and improve facilities for which the county claims possession.
Similarly, the county began a training program to offer some consistency across the municipality. While a laudable goal, delivery of the program has been spotty and fraught with administrative inconsistencies leading some departments to seek training from the Nova Scotia Fire School in Waverley, while others are returning to in-house programs.
Council agreed to establish the advisory committee which, as proposed, is dominated by council and county staff. There will be two councillors, and three members of county staff (the Fire Service Coordinator, Director of Finance, and an Administrative Assistant, while other staff may be asked to attend as required), all appointed through the mayor. The fire service will be represented by three fire chiefs or deputies, who will also be named by the mayor in consultation with the fire service coordinator.
The committee's mandate includes:
- Policy review
- Development of county standards
- Review reports from the Fire Service Coordinator regarding risk assessment information provided by the fire departments
- Development of a new five-year strategic plan
They plan to meet every other month, beginning in March.
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