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Woolwich reaches fire coverage deal with Waterloo

A near-fatal fire a year ago is the basis of a new aid agreement between Woolwich and the Waterloo Fire Department approved this week by township council.

Under the deal, the city will provide coverage to some 270 township properties that are closer to Waterloo fire stations than to Woolwich stations. City firefighters will respond only to confirmed structure fires, with the township paying a flat fee of $1,000 per incident.

Based on the last five years, there would be one or two applicable calls each year, Woolwich fire chief Dale Martin told councillors meeting Apr. 11.

The automatic aid arrangement stems from a fire last April at 440 Country Squire Rd. in which a woman suffered near-fatal injuries before being rescued by Woolwich firefighters. Conestogo firefighters arrived on the scene nine and a half minutes after the call on Apr. 7, 2016, joined a minute later by crews from St. Jacobs. Upon entering the home, they found and rescued the victim. Still, there was some criticism of Woolwich for failing to have an aid deal with the city, which has a fire hall just minutes away from the cluster of homes right on the border.

As there was no agreement with the city at the time, the Waterloo station was not dispatched, nor was there a request for coverage, said Martin.

Coun. Murray Martin noted of the Country Squire incident that even if the Waterloo firefighters had responded from the nearby station, they could not have entered the structure until backup arrived from elsewhere, as there would have been only four city firefighters. The outcome was unlikely to have changed.

Following that fire, however, Waterloo met with officials from the surrounding townships – Woolwich, Wellesley and Wilmot – to discuss coverage options.

Mayor Sandy Shantz, who attended the meetings with Waterloo, said the deal offered “reasonable” coverage and financial terms.

In response to Coun. Patrick Merlihan, chief Martin said the township will have the opportunity to recoup some of the costs from insurance companies, just as it does with collisions involving vehicles from outside Woolwich.

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