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TLTI needs more firefighters

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Fire insurance premiums could rise for some Leeds and the Thousand Islands residents if the township cannot recruit more firefighters.

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The township could lose part of its Superior Tanker Shuttle Service accreditation at two of its four fire stations. If the township is unable to avert the loss of that accreditation, it could mean higher fire insurance premiums for residents within an eight-kilometre radius of those fire stations.

“We recently applied for re-accreditation of the Tanker Shuttle Service with Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS). At the time of re-certification it was brought to our attention that firefighter numbers for the northern stations are low and need to be increased in order to retain our certification,” said Fire Chief Richard Lawson.

The two stations affected are Stations 2 and 4, in Seeley’s Bay and Lyndhurst respectively. According to Lawson, FUS requires a minimum of 15 firefighters at each station.

“Recruitment has always been a challenge for our northern stations, partly because the population is sparse,” said Stephen Donachey, township chief executive officer.

In the meantime this is not yet a critical situation, in so far as the fire department is still able to respond effectively.

“We can supply all the water necessary to fight a fire, but it’s about the number of firefighters at those two stations,” said Lawson.

The township’s fire department has not yet received any written notice of termination and, according to Lawson, even if the department does receive such notice; it will be at least another year before any changes take effect.

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If the department is unable to boost the number of firefighters, the loss of the accreditation could mean up to a 20 per cent increase in residents’ fire insurance premiums, according to Lawson.

In an effort to avert the loss, the fire department is launching an aggressive recruitment campaign to attract new volunteer firefighters to beef up the two stations’ numbers.

“We have discussed and are organizing a full-scale multi-media recruitment campaign to increase department numbers of contributing and competent members,” said Lawson.

The new recruitment campaign will be focused on inclusion and promote the desirability of all ages and walks of life within the fire service. As of 2016 census data, the median age of a firefighter in Leeds and the Thousand Islands is 50.5 years.

“We need to explore recruiting more than the 20-30 age bracket to ensure our fire stations are adequately staffed and available to answer when called,” said Lawson.

The branding of this campaign will be “These boots WILL fit you” in an effort to reassure people that they do have what it takes. The campaign will encourage people of all ages and walks of life, in general good health and mobility, to consider joining the fire service.

“There are plenty of jobs in volunteer firefighting that, so long as you are in reasonably good health and mobility, you can do, such as driving the truck or assisting with the hoses, or providing first aid,” said Donachey.

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As Lawson explains, there is a false perception that all recruits need to perform to the highest physical requirements of interior firefighting.

“We’re encouraging recently retired people in their mid-to-late 50s, who may be looking for something to do. The firefighter service provides training, you become part of a team, and it can be very fulfilling,” added Donachey.

The recruitment campaign will run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 31, with a recruitment class beginning in January 2021.

Applications for on-call, paid firefighters in Leeds and the Thousand Islands can be found online, or by emailing fireadmin@townshipleeds.on.ca or calling 613-659-2415 x 222.

Brockville Recorder & Times is part of the Local Journalism Initiative and reporters are funded by the Government of Canada to produce civic journalism for underserved communities. Learn more about the initiative

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