Repeal of Training Regulation Eases Pressure on Volunteer Departments
Throughout all of rural and suburban Ontario, the provincial fire service depends on volunteer firefighters.
These are men and women who offer to be available at a moment’s notice to respond to emergencies in their community. They receive either no pay or a modest honorarium, and they give uncounted hours to training and preparedness, as well as to maintaining their stations and equipment. They visit schools and raise funds or collect food for causes that matter to their communities. They leave their families in the dead of night, during a holiday meal, a birthday celebration, or on a Saturday morning.
The provincial government calculates that a full 90 percent of Ontario’s municipalities count on volunteer responders.
Some welcome relief is in store for Ontario’s volunteer firefighters and the communities that rely on them thanks to the new government’s decision to repeal Fire Certification Regulation 379/18.
This regulation was developed in response to three separate coroner’s inquests, which recommended that the province establish mandatory credentials specifically for the trainers, inspectors, and fire prevention officers at work in the fire service. However, with little notice or public consultation, Regulation 379/18 went miles further by requiring all volunteer firefighters to complete more than 225 hours of training within a two-year internship period.
The decision by Michael Tibollo, the minister of community safety and correctional services, to put the regulation on hold was a reasonable step. The minister has opted to pause the implementation of a regulation that was rushed and filled with significant consequence. In the meantime, volunteer and full-time firefighters can continue to train to the National Fire Protection Association standards.
As mentioned, the key benefit in cancelling this regulation seems to have been consideration of the recruitment challenges faced by volunteer departments. But there is more that can be done by the province to support the many municipalities that are struggling to attract new volunteers to meet their departments’ needs.