Opinion| Risk Assessment for Sault Fire Services Unnecessary

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One probably could ask that since council is planning to have a comprehensive risk assessment of its fire service conducted in 2018, why it doesn’t just bite the bullet and have it done early in 2017, as requested by firemen and supported by Councillors Ross Romano, Marchy Bruni, Lou Turco and Joe Krmpotich.

Romano and Bruni presented a resolution along these lines to council Monday night but it got shot down, Mayor Christian Provenzano and Councillors Paul Christian, Sandra Hollingsworth, Susan Myers, Steve Butland, Judy Hupponen, Frank Fata and Matthew Shoemaker voting against it.

I think I have to go along with the latter.

The firefighters are upset that under the realignment the complement of on-duty firefighters has been cut from 17 to 13 with a corresponding reduction in fire crews, from four to three.

Fire Chief Mike Figliola in a report to council said fire services has not been adversely affected by the changed crew size, which has been operative for some time.

“Calls for fire services relate to a number of incidents of which actual residential fires are only a small part,” he said. “In the past decade total calls have been consistently declining by about 2.5% per year and are currently projected to number approximately 2,400 in 2016, which is a drop of 82 calls, or 3.3% from 2015.

“Actual significant residential fires valued at $25,001 or more dropped from 16 in 2014 to 14 in 2015 and are expected to drop even further in 2016 with an estimate of 12 based on experience to date extrapolated to year end 2016.”

He presented a graph that showed the average response time was 4.33 in 2014 and 4.07 in 2015 with four-man crews. This year, with three-man crews, the response time is 3.36.

Initial firefighters on the scene number 10 in all three years. Average total of firefighters on the scene in 2014 was 15, increasing by one in both 2015 and 2016.

Unless the firefighters can come up with some instances where things went awry because of the cutback to three-man crews, I think I agree with council’s decision to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

The situation is being constantly monitored and I believe the only real test in regard to safety will come in real time, in real situations.

I realize I am saying this from the comfort and safety of the computer room in my home, with not even cigarette smoke to contend with, whereas firefighters can be at risk every time they strap on their gear.

But I do think it is possible that after the realignment has been in place for more than two years, that it might even show that the comprehensive risk assessment planned for 2018 isn’t really needed.

When I was a reporter with The Trail Daily Times in 1955, I lived in the firehall as a volunteer firefighter. We volunteers mainly accompanied the crews of two full-time firefighters for night-time fires.

One night another volunteer and I jumped on the back of the truck, hanging on for the jolt that usually occurred when the lead-footed driver took off. It never came.

The truck next to us took off. The regulars at the front had changed trucks without letting us know.

They were off to a residential garage fire. They stopped at the hydrant, where we volunteers would hook up the line, and then took off for the fire.

They weren’t exactly happy when no water came out of the hose and they had to back up to the hydrant, especially when it was in full view of neighbourhood residents who got out of bed to watch the fire.

The chief, it turned out, wasn’t happy either as we never got to the fire. Neither of us owned cars and we weren’t allowed to drive fire equipment.

The full-timers didn’t escape the chief’s wrath either, which made it a tad unpleasant for a while when we were playing pool after the regulars finished their evening training.

It is funny now. It sure wasn’t then.

Well, are you over the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States?

I am. It really didn’t bother me at all. I figured all along that to get upset about Trump winning would be as futile as my writing about our traffic department’s screw-up of the lane configuration at the intersection of Albert and East Streets.

Actually, feeling a cold coming on, I went to bed at 10 p.m. on election night. At 3 a.m. my wife informed me that Trump had won and I gave my usual grunt and went back to sleep.

I, like a lot, probably the majority, of Canadians really got caught up in this campaign in the U.S. It almost became an addiction, the televison going to CNN as soon as it was turned on.

But I never got so involved that the result was going to affect me one way or the other.

Not so, I gather, with a lot of Canadians.

Many in this city have told me they are actually depressed, my wife, Barbara, among them. I consider myself quite lucky that the TV we mainly watch survived election night, when raw emotion replaced reason, putting it in danger.

If Trump’s head had popped out of it, I think he would have been in danger too.

I couldn’t get that worked up over the result. I think the American people made the wrong choice, but then I consider the choices they had, Donald Duck, excuse me, Donald Trump, who actually makes Donald Duck look good, and Hillary Clinton.

Voting for either one of them would make me gag.

I am not going to go into all the reasons both were such bad choices as everyone who followed the election already knows. Their faults and bad choices have been presented in the media over and over.

But now that a choice has been made, I think not only the Americans but everyone should simply accept it and hope for the best.

Heck, we may be surprised. I doubt it because I don’t think Trump will be able to hide who he actually is for a full term.

But, as I said above, let’s hope for the best.

Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

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