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Local fire services get share of $5 million

Firefighters were called out to a Reid Woods Drive manufacturing plant on the morning of Apr. 16, but the smouldering was quickly contained. [Damon MacLean]

Local fire departments are now starting to see a share of a $5-million provincial fund to help them deal with pandemic-related measures.

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris last week announced $163,800 for Waterloo Region fire services, money that will benefit all seven municipalities as they address impacts from COVID-19. Funding is expected to enhance fire safety training and support safety inspection programs to ensure compliance with the Ontario Fire Code.

“Like every other community service, COVID-19 has created new challenges and risks for local fire departments. In the past, training for fire fighters has always been in person, as have fire safety inspections. This $163,000 in regional funding will help move training and inspections online, keeping our communities and frontline fire service personnel safe,” said Harris.

“Health and safety is our government’s number one priority. Protecting the brave men and women who serve our community is something that should always be at the forefront. Our local fire services have always been there for us in our time of need and in return, we need to be there to support them. Rural fire departments in particular are stretched for resources so this funding will make a big difference.”

The funding to each municipality will enhance in-person and online education by increasing access to additional training. Updates to specialized critical equipment such as high-speed internet are also on the way, to enhance virtual training and enable remote options to both support fire safety and compliance with the fire code, while also limiting exposure to the virus.

Harris says funding could be used to connect fire halls to high-speed internet, and even allow for remote options for inspections.

Woolwich is set to receive $10,700, while Wellesley receives $7,300. The remaining funding breaks down with Kitchener receiving the largest portion ($62,100), then Cambridge ($36,600), Waterloo ($30,400), Wilmot ($9,600) and North Dumfries ($7,100).

“The Woolwich Fire Department is appreciative of this funding opportunity from the provincial government, which will help address the impacts to municipal fire services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This investment will be put to good use by enhancing our online training presence and upgrading our technical rescue expertise which will ensure the safety of our fire personnel and our communities,” said Woolwich deputy fire chief Dennis Aldous in a statement.

Wellesley fire chief Paul Redman said the funding is timely.

“It was a nice surprise, but it wasn’t the sort of thing that I think many people knew was coming… We are in a business that doesn’t really bring in generally a lot of money but it does cost a lot. So anything helps, ” said Redman.

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