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Wellesley getting closer to new fire master plan

After getting a first look at the final draft of the Wellesley Township Fire Department’s new master plan, councillors decided this week they needed more time to examine the report before giving their stamp of approval.

Terry Allen, a consultant with Pomax Inc., presented the report to council on Tuesday, highlighting recommendations for better fire prevention, emergency responsiveness, and training, among others.

As requested by council, the proposed fire master plan is for 10 years.

While Allen commends the fire department for improvements they’ve made over the years, there’s room for improvement.

“I’ve known the Wellesley Fire Department for at least 25 years from my time as a regional fire coordinator for the Region of Waterloo and I do want to note the advancements the department has made over the last five or six years in terms of restructuring, in terms of resources provided to improve the facilities,” Allen said.

They’re recommending the fire department establish a part-time fire inspector position to address the need for inspection, code compliance and fire safety education in small manufacturing operations within the township. In conjunction with that, they suggest the fire department work with other township departments to determine small manufacturing operations on farm properties and create a coordinated inspection system.

“In terms of prevention and public education throughout the consultations with the firefighters, they indicated that from their perspective, certainly the significant fire risk in the community is in the small manufacturing operations on many of the farms that operate through the township. As the chief said you have one of the largest bases of small manufacturing operations in the region,” Allen said.

A large percentage of fires in the township have undetermined causes, which is somewhat understandable given the fact that a number of the large losses are in barns, and when barn fires get going they typically burn to the ground, proving difficult to determine the actual cause.

“But we still think there’s an opportunity in many of the other fire experiences to come up with a cause determination, and then you can start targeting your prevention and public education opportunities,” Allen said.

He says they need to determine the community level of compliance with smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors.

“Provincial regulations require a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors in all of the residences and you don’t have a really good handle on your level of compliance to that.”

He’d also like to see a more proactive fire prevention policy, particularly to deal with those issues around small manufacturing operations. He says Wellesley’s is more reactive now.

When it comes to their emergency response, Allen is proposing the fire department complete a two-year study of incidents, documenting the types of emergencies, and the turn out and travel times by the number of responders. As it stands now, there’s no record of the sequence of arrival.

“One of the things that’s important in an emergency response is to be able to determine exactly what your capabilities are in terms of when a fire comes in what are exactly the turn out times, how long does it take for firefighters to get to the station and then get on the trucks and get the trucks rolling. What’s the travel time from the stations, what are the number of responders, and what is the sequence of arrival,” he explained.

He says a lot of that information is available through the Kitchener fire dispatch, but someone from the Wellesley fire department will have to work with them and provide their information.

They’d also like to see the township create a formal part-time public educator position, and the creation of a training officer position for each station.

More flexible training schedules are recommended. As it stands now, Wellesley firefighters do their training only on Monday nights.

“One of the real issues that particularly volunteer fire services are experiencing across the province is time. Firefighters that have other responsibilities, kids’ hockey games, shift work, those kinds of things make it difficult to always attend Monday night training. … We’re suggesting that you create a more flexible schedule so that the same training program is delivered during the same week on a different night at each of the stations,” Allen said.

This way a firefighter from any of the three stations – Wellesley, Linwood and St. Clements – could attend whichever training session fits their schedule, regardless of which station they belong to.

They’re suggesting all three fire stations remain at their current locations, but that the St. Clements station should see major renovations or be replaced.

He recommends they reduce the number of rescue units by one.

“We were asked if there’s any possibility of savings in terms of apparatuses provided. Currently you have a rescue unit at each of the stations and we are suggesting with the purchase of a pumper in 2017 that pumper could be designed to carry the required number of firefighters and equipment that would be used typically in a vehicle accident type of emergency for a rescue unit. And you also would have two rescue units within the community to still respond,” Allen said.

A reconfiguration of vehicles between Wellesley and St. Clements stations could prove beneficial. The tanker at the St. Clements station doesn’t have a larger pumping capacity, so if that pumper didn’t start then firefighters would have to wait for a truck from another station to arrive before they could really start applying enough water that they need to.

“Whereas if they move the pumper from Wellesley to the St. Clements station if that pumper didn’t start they could then take the tanker and still have enough water application capability. And at the Wellesley station you have the aerial which also has a pump on it, which could be used should the Wellesley pumper not start,” Allen said.

Coun. Carl Smit and Coun. Herb Neher both mentioned they’d like some more time to look over the lengthy document before they give it the go ahead. Council will discuss it again and advise Allen of any additions or changes they’d like to see before the plan is finalized and adopted.

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