KEY POINTS concerning Fires and the Midland Fire Department:

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Listed below are some key points regarding Fire and Fire services costs in Midland.  We thought this information would be timely given the fact that Fire continues to spend in excess of the allocated budget and a collective agreement for Fire personnel is currently being negotiated. Residents of Midland simply have no further “ability to pay” and Midlandcommunity.ca is calling for restraint and a change to the current service delivery model.  Midland Fire spending has increased 140% from 2002 to 2012, approximately 5 times the rate of inflation. With Midland rapidly heading towards 52% of its population over 65 years of age and on a fixed income, having the lowest average household income in Simcoe County, having a growth rate at 0.5% or less per annum, can Midland sustain the current Fire Service model? Take a look at the facts below, form your own opinion and then let your representatives on Council know what you think. Additionally, please plan to attend the second draft budget meeting scheduled for 6 PM in the Town Council chambers on Thursday, October 17. Hope to see you there !

With elections just one year away, it is time for everyone’s voice to be heard.

Finally, Roy Ellis was recently a guest on “Politically Speaking“, so be sure to tune in to this relevant and timely discussion on issues affecting our Town. The show will broadcast today (10th) at 2:00pm and 10:00pm and on Friday the 11th, at 10:00am and 1:00pm.

Key points:

  1. Midland spends more per resident to operate its Fire Department than Toronto does.  Is this is a reasonable way to allocate Midland’s more modest resources?
  2. The death rate from fires in Ontario fell from 30.9 per million in 1980 to 6.7 per million by 2011, a 78% reduction.  The main reason: introducing inexpensive smoke detectors in our homes.  The death rate from unintentional fires with a working smoke detector is now 2.2 per million.
  3.  Of all fire deaths today, 25% are intentional – arson, homicide or suicide;  over half of the remainder occur when there is no working smoke alarm.
  4. Almost half of all fire deaths occur between 10 pm and 6 am;  careless smoking causes 20% of all fatal fires;  alcohol is a significant factor in many fatalities.
  5. The reason smoke detectors are so effective is they warn occupants about fire and allow them to escape long before a fire department can intervene.  We are 20 times more likely to be killed in a car crash than an accidental fire with a working smoke detector.  We are 137 times more likely to be injured in a car crash.
  6. Although casualties from fires have plummeted, the amount Midland spends on its Fire Department has increased much more than for other services.
  7. Midland’s spending for Fire increased 140% from 2002 to 2012 – from $1.2 Million to $2.9 Million.  At the same time Midland’s combined spending for all other services increased 63%.
  8. There is less than one fire a month in a structure in Midland – a total of just four to the end of August this year.  Midland Fire also chooses to attend a huge number of non-fire calls.  Including all of them, Fire still attends less than one call every eight hours.
  9. There is no evidence that a high number of Fire responders to medical emergencies achieves significant results.  Aside from needed Jaws of Life extrication training, Fire personnel possess only basic first aid skills.  Most true emergencies require patient transport to hospital immediately, something they do not do.
  10. There is no significant difference in casualty rates whether a community employs full-time firefighters or part-time ‘volunteers’.  It is smoke detectors and not firefighters that dramatically reduce casualties.
  11. Midland can conserve resources by doing what many other municipalities do – operating a fire service that relies more on paid part-time firefighters.  So-called ‘volunteer’ fire services achieve equivalent results to full-time ones at significantly reduced cost.

2 Comments on "KEY POINTS concerning Fires and the Midland Fire Department:"

  1. Good day;

    Over the past few years I have read with interest your take on the Midland Fire Department. Specifically with this l post, I take issue with the fact that you don’t mention the quality of service that is provided by a composite fire department vs. a department made up of strictly volunteers.

    I would like to preface this response by:
    1. admitting I am a fire service professional and former firefighter in Midland;
    2. I am not going to take issue with your post because some of what you say is accurate.

    As a former Fire Chief in a fully volunteer fire service I would like to let you know, in my opinion the fire service model that Midland is running will become the norm in the next ten years not the exception. You may not be aware that there is legislation and standards that govern the fire service. Not only do firefighters protect the public, they protect the municipality from litigation. Midland has hazards and risks that have been identified, therefore they are legislated to have a plan do deal with the identified risks. Firefighters are a key part of this.

    Fire Underwriters Survey grade municipalities on their “fire risks” and that grade directly reflects the rate that the public pays. Traditionally a composite fire department will have a grade in the range of 3-5. Municipalities with a fire department made up of only volunteers will typically have a grade in the range of 5 – 7 in the areas with fire hydrants and the areas without (Midland has several) will score closer to 8 or 9. The difference in rates between a 7 and a 4 is on average $350 to $400 per year per residential household. So, be prepared for your household insurance rates to skyrocket should you choose another model. Not to mention the insurance and commercial rates, you will force business to look for alternatives to Midland.

    Earlier I spoke of standards. Ontario is moving from less stringent Ontario based standards to NFPA (international) professional based standards. This is a good move for the public. In your blog, you referenced auto extrication. let me explain exactly what is required to be certified to NFPA 1006 – Chapter 10 (Vehicle Rescue) Level II. First off all members who respond will be required to train and demonstrate the requisite skills and knowledge to perform general rescues. This will represent approximately 40 hours of theory and practical instruction. Then they will need to take a Level I course, where they demonstrate the skills and knowledge to respond to common passenger vehicles. This will take approximately 20 hours of training. Because not all of the vehicles on Midland roads are common passenger vehicles, they will need to train to Level II – Commercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles include school buses, trucks and vehicles that carry dangerous goods. This additional Level II training will take approximately 20 more hours to become certified. So, just for vehicle rescue – it will take approximately 80 hours of training for each firefighter (career or volunteer) to become certified.

    Now, take a typical year of training twice per month. It will take over a year, assuming 100% attendance to become certified in vehicle rescue. Now, multiply that for ice / water rescue, structural firefighting, officer development, and the list goes on and on. How are volunteers going to accomplish this? God love the volunteers, but they are being taxed. In Canada, the average volunteer firefighter lasts 3 – 5 years before they move on. It is becoming more and more difficult to find people who are willing and able to put in the required time to meet the required standards. Employers 10 years ago were glad to let volunteers leave work to help out in the community. Even that support is fading as the large employers are not keeping extra people around on the floor that can step in.

    Firefighting is expensive, it is easy to blame them when you don’t understand the 100’s of hours required every year just to train. Skills are perishable, once they get certified, it is only as good as the ongoing practice to maintain the skills.

    Anyway, I can go on for hours, I can’t say as I have all the answers but I promise you it isn’t as easy as just saying “lets run with vollies”. Consider the effects on insurance rates and be thankful that you only have 12 structure fires per year, better yet, thank your fire prevention officer and the duty crews who are actively out in Midland performing inspections, fire education and pre-planning. Let me guess….. you didn’t know they do that…….

    Gord Roesch

    • Midlandcommunity.ca | October 21, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply

      Thank you Gord for commenting on our post concerning the Midland Fire Department and, as a former Fire Chief yourself, for confirming it was sufficiently accurate that “I am not going to take issue with your post.”

      You acknowledge “firefighting is expensive”. There is no doubt about that. The main area where we have a differing viewpoint is we believe firefighting in Midland is too expensive to maintain in its current form. And you appear to suggest we should just get used to paying ‘career’ firefighters wage increases two to three times the rate of inflation for a service where the demand has decreased dramatically. These huge cost increases to maintain the current Fire model are simply not sustainable and Midland residents have no further appetite or ability to pay them.

      We all believe what we do as our life’s work has value and importance. We are not saying Midland does not need a fire department. We are not saying Midland must have a pure ‘volunteer’ department. But society does not have limitless resources to devote to everything we value and consider important. Even though we know what it means for life expectancy, there is no heart surgeon standing by 24/7 at our local hospital waiting to spring into action in case one of us comes in with a blown aneurism. Why then is it so important to have two full-time firefighters sitting at the fire hall 24/7 waiting to be needed when no truck and no firefighters will answer a fire call until after an additional group of paid, part-time ‘volunteers’ are paged and arrive at the hall.

      You speak at some length about training and say “skills are perishable, once they get certified, it is only as good as the ongoing practice to maintain the skills.” If you are correct about that, it demonstrates a major problem with a Fire service like Midland’s – there are not even enough incidents to maintain skill levels. Although too often training aims for perfection instead of adequacy when it doesn’t really matter whether it takes 60 seconds or 75 seconds to connect a hose line to a hydrant.

      In closing, we value a Fire service and realize there will always be costs to maintain one. However, we also realize there are different Fire models across Ontario and the Fire service in Midland needs to evolve and change as circumstances change. Leaders in the public service provide solutions and manage change. Midland’s fire service would benefit greatly from meaningful and sustainable solutions.
      George Dixon for Midlandcommunity.ca

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