Town not meeting fire-service standards, report says

Bonnie Belec
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A recent followup report into fire protection services in the Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove concludes the same thing as the original document — the service is inadequate.

Mayor John Kennedy of the the Town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove.

Faced with the harsh reality of the report’s findings — that the voluntary fire department can’t provide enough firefighters to meet industry standards, a large capital investment in equipment would be needed to maintain the department and the water supply in the town is lacking — council has decided to join forces with the St. John’s Regional Fire Department (SJRFD) and shutter its community one.

“The fire protection service being provided is inadequate and this places the town and its citizens in a position of risk,” says the strategic review. “Most immediate is the risk of a serious fire that could incur a large

loss, or worse again, injuries or deaths.”

Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor John Kennedy says the decision wasn’t made lightly, but it has come down to providing the appropriate service for the protection of its citizens.

“Unfortunately for our volunteers, and I feel sorry for them because they have really put a lot of time and effort into the fire department. I commend them for their work, but it’s not only the risk to residents. We don’t want people responding to be put at risk. I feel sorry it has come to this. It’s not something we want to do, but it’s something we have to do,” he told The Telegram Wednesday.

“It is outlined in writing and we would be remiss not to do this for the protection of the town,” said Kennedy, who will serve his second term as mayor of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, having been acclaimed in the nomination process last week.

During council’s meeting Monday, Kennedy made a motion to finalize the agreement with SJRFD that would provide full-time fire and emergency services to the town at an annual cost of $129,000 for 2014 and $133,000 for 2014. Figures are based on the number of homes in the community as well as their assessed values.

A vote on the motion will take place at the next meeting Sept. 23 — the day before the municipal election.

Kennedy said it isn’t great timing, but regardless of who makes up the next council, he’s convinced they would be of the same opinion.

“We had hoped this would have been done last February, but we didn’t get the figures from St. John’s until the end of August and we went back to the authors of the report and asked them to do a followup,” he said, adding the local fire department did a recruitment drive in the meantime, but numbers were still insufficient.

“We wouldn’t want to put this off on a new council. People on council know the issue, they’ve been there long enough and are quite capable to make a rational decision. If a new council comes in it’s up to them if they want to change their minds, but anyone reading this report would come to the same conclusion,” said Kennedy.

Before the strategic review took place — the original report was filed in February with a followup in August — the town’s volunteer fire department was the primary responder, with the SJRFD standing by. The retention fee for this service hovers around $20,000 annually, while the cost of the volunteer department fluctuates between $70,000-$90,000 annually.

Since the decision was made to review the fire protection needs of the community, Kennedy said, the SJRFD is responding automatically to all calls to the town, with the volunteer department providing backup because the SJRFD is waiting for a new tanker.

St. John’s Coun. Danny Breen, who sits on the St. John’s Regional Fire Services Committee, which operates the SJRFD, said a tanker is being prepared for service.

“We needed the new water tanker because you’re going to unserviced areas not only in Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, but also to Paradise. So there’s been issues surrounding adequate water supply. This will be put in one of the stations and used when needed for the areas,” said Breen.

He said the provision of fire services is expanding regionally and he can see more communities joining forces.

“It began with St. John’s — Mount Pearl had its own — then Mount Pearl joined and Paradise and now Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove. When you look at offering these regional services it is going to be more cost-effective and on top of that have a fire department rated as one of the Top 3 for fire protection services in the country,” said Breen.

The strategic review outlined five options for the town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove with three being viable — retain the existing volunteer fire department, develop a career/volunteer (known as composite) fire department or receive services from SJRFD.

Kennedy said the most basic issue the town had to deal with is the insufficient number of firefighters responding to calls and it has never been about money.

“If we maintained our own fire department we’d still face that issue,” he said. “If we went with a composite department we’d have paid firefighters at a cost of about $400,000 for salaries, but that’s during the day. We’d still have to rely on volunteers in the evening and still be facing the same issue. If we knew it would work we’d look at it, but it’s all about safety, not money,” said Kennedy.

 

bbelec@thetelegram.com

Organizations: SJRFD, Regional Fire Department, Regional Fire Services Committee

Geographic location: Logy Bay, Middle Cove-Outer Cove, Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • disbelief
    September 15, 2013 - 01:27

    @Derrick, have you ever been a volunteer fire fighter? If not then I suggest you get your facts straight. Most of the members are a stones throw from the fire hall and are there, geared and rolling out the door long within 5 minutes. I have served with a department and have had close to three minutes to travel to the hall and I have still been geared up and onto the truck in an average of 5 minutes. If you have served then clearly there was an issue as to why you would have taken longer to respond. As other comments state, and I quote, they go in when everyone else is running out, they also go to family funtions, work, bed, and anywhere else they may go carrying a page and/or radio so that when the times comes they get the page and are enroute to the hall. One statement I've seen and truely believe is what of volunteers didn't volunteer? Where would we be then? I commend the men and women of the LBMCOC department on their work and their fight and I hope the council wakes up and sees the error in what they are trying to do. My last comment is that these people go to bed with pagers and radios next to them in case someone, somewhere in their town needs fire or medical help, what have you done for your community?

  • LMO Firefighter
    September 13, 2013 - 10:14

    As volunteer firefighters, we run in the front door when everyone else is running out. We save lives and want to continue doing so with our group of almost 20 volunteer members. Council seems inclined to go in another direction though. We hope our community will speak up and support us in advancing the current fire department without going to the extreme of closing the doors. When the consultants report was first commissioned, it was because of low numbers, however since then we have brought the complement of firefighters to almost 20. It is our belief that we can still provide the necessary fire and emergency services that the town requires, but council needs to give us the resources and support to make it work. The report showed that we need to improve our service delivery, and truthfully I would much rather we do it within our town by townspeople rather than shutting the door and throwing up our hands. One of the options was to invest and remain autonomous. This is where my Executive and I think this should go. Unfortunately, the will of council is not there. Only one councillor supports us. Hope this helps for your story. There are all kinds of technicalities that we could discuss stemming from the consultant's report, which we have captured in our own response. Unfortunately, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor didn't table that document so it won't be released to the residents. The standard that Mayor Kennedy and most of council talk about is a standard that is not adopted in ant Fire Dept throughout Canada ‎Hard to believe that the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philips is willing to have a public meeting regarding closing a church, yet LBMCOC is not willing to have a public meeting on one of the most important services the town offers. I'm disappointed in our council.

    • Craig Dyer
      September 14, 2013 - 14:33

      I have been trying to stay neutral on this issue and formulate my opinion based on facts and feedback from the Town Residents. Unlike this unnamed fire fighter I have no problem stating who I am, Craig Dyer Deputy Mayor Logy Bay Middle Cove Outer Cove. The fire department states they have almost 20 volunteers, well almost 20 is not a number. I believe the number they have on paper is 19 and of this 19 not all are active members, meaning a majority from the reports I have seen including honorarium calculations don’t show up at fires or training. We have volunteers that have been on the roster for over a year and don’t even have basic training yet. What this means is that yes four members might show up to a fire at your house but that does not mean that you have any guarantee that they are all qualified or permitted by law to assist. We are fortunate enough that a majority of our fire fighters have never had to and God forbid will never have to respond to a real fire. I agree with this unknown fire fighter on one thing I do hope that the people of the community speak up and let their opinion be known. I just hope that they are aware of all the facts before they form their opinion. We have a report on the table co-written by a former fire commissioner of the province. We did not make these conclusions up they are based on fact. Yes a rebuttal was written by the Fire Chief on leave but the basis of his argument was that he didn’t agree with us wanting to hold our fire services to a higher standard because no one else does. In other words the status quo is good enough because no other department is striving to be better. A rebuttal I might add that was not tabled based on a decision of Council and recommendation from staff. I am flattered that the unknown fire fighter thinks that both the Mayor and I dictate what goes on meeting agendas but alas I hold no such power. With regards to the fire department wanting the Town to provide them with the resources necessary to make it work, how can we as a Council justify paying more than four times the current budget to maintain a volunteer department and still have to pay to retain the services of St. John’s for back up. For the past six years I have fought for and secured every request from the fire department most times met with opposition. With regards to only one Councillor supporting them I can’t recall one member of the fire department contacting me for my opinion on the situation. So they are assuming that they know how people will vote and putting words in their mouths in my opinion this is both short sighted and counterproductive towards their cause. Craig Dyer Deputy Mayor Logy Bay Middle Cove Outer Cove

    • Craig Dyer
      September 14, 2013 - 14:34

      I have been trying to stay neutral on this issue and formulate my opinion based on facts and feedback from the Town Residents. Unlike this unnamed fire fighter I have no problem stating who I am, Craig Dyer Deputy Mayor Logy Bay Middle Cove Outer Cove. The fire department states they have almost 20 volunteers, well almost 20 is not a number. I believe the number they have on paper is 19 and of this 19 not all are active members, meaning a majority from the reports I have seen including honorarium calculations don’t show up at fires or training. We have volunteers that have been on the roster for over a year and don’t even have basic training yet. What this means is that yes four members might show up to a fire at your house but that does not mean that you have any guarantee that they are all qualified or permitted by law to assist. We are fortunate enough that a majority of our fire fighters have never had to and God forbid will never have to respond to a real fire. I agree with this unknown fire fighter on one thing I do hope that the people of the community speak up and let their opinion be known. I just hope that they are aware of all the facts before they form their opinion. We have a report on the table co-written by a former fire commissioner of the province. We did not make these conclusions up they are based on fact. Yes a rebuttal was written by the Fire Chief on leave but the basis of his argument was that he didn’t agree with us wanting to hold our fire services to a higher standard because no one else does. In other words the status quo is good enough because no other department is striving to be better. A rebuttal I might add that was not tabled based on a decision of Council and recommendation from staff. I am flattered that the unknown fire fighter thinks that both the Mayor and I dictate what goes on meeting agendas but alas I hold no such power. With regards to the fire department wanting the Town to provide them with the resources necessary to make it work, how can we as a Council justify paying more than four times the current budget to maintain a volunteer department and still have to pay to retain the services of St. John’s for back up. For the past six years I have fought for and secured every request from the fire department most times met with opposition. With regards to only one Councillor supporting them I can’t recall one member of the fire department contacting me for my opinion on the situation. So they are assuming that they know how people will vote and putting words in their mouths in my opinion this is both short sighted and counterproductive towards their cause. Craig Dyer Deputy Mayor Logy Bay Middle Cove Outer Cove

  • John firefighter
    September 12, 2013 - 17:29

    Listen people, a matter of safety is hogwash. By the time SJRFD gets to your fire, you or your loved ones will unfortunately have perished. You saw what happened in Kenmount Terrace. New homes go up in minutes due to the materials they are now built from. 20 minutes is not an acceptable response time for any emergency service. All they will be doing is putting water on your house which will now be a pile of rubble smoldering in the basement and recovering the bodies of anyone who was trapped or fell victim to the smoke. If your town proposes having a fire department from 10 or more minutes away, be responsible for your fire protection, I would fight it as though your life depends on it BECAUSE IT DOES ! No disrespect to any fire department but unless they have teleportation capability it's just not acceptable. Think about this, new floor beams have a 12-15 minute burn time before they fail. You think by the time SJRFD arrives in 20 minutes coupled with how long the fire was already burning AND the time it takes for them to get prepared to enter your home which now has no floor......you my friends are up the creek. If I were still a firefighter and was told to enter a home that was burning for 20 or more minutes, I would refuse. And you referred to the safety of your volunteers but its ok to put paid firefighters at risk ?

  • LMO Firefighter
    September 12, 2013 - 15:02

    The consultants report references NFPA standards that no Fire Dept in Canada has adopted, As volunteer firefighters, we run in the front door of a house or building when everyone else is running out. We save lives and want to continue doing so with our group of almost 20 volunteer members. Council seems inclined to go in another direction though. We hope our community will speak up and support us in advancing the current fire department without going to the extreme of closing the doors. When the consultants report was first commissioned, it was because of low numbers, however since then we have brought the complement of firefighters to almost 20. It is our belief that we can still provide the necessary fire and emergency services that the town requires, but council needs to give us the resources and support to make it work. The report showed that we need to improve our service delivery, and truthfully I would much rather we do it within our town by townspeople rather than shutting the door and throwing up our hands. One of the options was to invest and remain autonomous. This is where my Executive and I think this should go. Unfortunately, the will of council is not there. Only one councillor supports us. Hope this helps for your story. There are all kinds of technicalities that we could discuss stemming from the consultant's report, which we have captured in our own response. Unfortunately, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor didn't table that document so it won't be released to the residents. ‎Hard to believe that the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philips is willing to have a public meeting regarding closing a church, yet LBMCOC is not willing to have a public meeting on one of the most important services the town offers. I'm disappointed in our council. The cost to the Town over the last 3 years was approx. $72,000.00 and the cosy from SJFRD is a 62% increase in cost. The Tanker that the Mayor refers to is stationed on O'Leary Ave and will be dispatched upon request after the SJFRD pumper arrives to a fire in LMO with only 500 gallons of water and will have to wait approx. 15 mins for the tanker that hold 1500 gallons of water. The main reason for the start up of the LMO Fire Dept in 1998 was because if a structure caught fire it burned to the ground because not enough water was available.

  • Holyrood Mom
    September 12, 2013 - 10:40

    We are having the same issue here. Our town is expanding in leaps and bounds with new home (including mine) and business construction rampant and as I understand, the volunteer department is also having trouble with getting people to volunteer and be in the town during the day. The nearest full time department is in CBS, what happens if there is a fire at the school where my children go or the new MUN building or Eastern Health where I work? Am I going to have to wait 20 minutes to be rescued. I feel it's high time that Holyrood figure out a plan to deal with this also, before tragedy strikes. With the amount of new businesses and huge houses here, it's not like they don't have the money to have a small amount of full time firefighters to protect me, my family and what I have worked so hard for and pay taxes to have protected. Having CBS come to Holyrood to fight fires would not work. Where would that leave the people there if something happened in CBS while their fire fighters were in Holyrood. Not to mention how long it would take to even get here. Concerned Mom

  • cantcountonit
    September 12, 2013 - 09:03

    your counting on the fact there are enough volunteers in the community during the day hours, not at their regular work to even field a truck to go for an emergency not enough bodies, the truck doesnt move, the call in SJRFD anyways

  • Anon
    September 12, 2013 - 07:49

    How can they say it's not reliable? There has not been a time yet when I have heard of something happen and the department hasn't gone to the call. I wonder how the parents of children in the school will feel if the close the department and God forbid they ever get called to the school with it possibly taking 20 minutes or more for St. John's to respond when the local department would be there in about 5 minutes

    • Derrick
      September 12, 2013 - 11:48

      It's not reliable because it's a "volunteer" Fire Department and they cant recruit enough volunteers. Also, volunteers have to first go to the station from their homes, suit up and then respond to the emergency. You're saying 5 minutes for them to respond ??? Get a grip. St John's would be there before them every time.