Big changes for Pontiac’s Firefighters

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Allyson Beauregard

PONTIAC – During the regular MRC Pontiac Council of Mayors meeting, held January 27, Jacques Piché, Fire Safety and Civil Security Coordinator announced changes that will significantly affect the Pontiac’s fire departments:  required
certification for tanker truck drivers,

Allyson Beauregard

PONTIAC – During the regular MRC Pontiac Council of Mayors meeting, held January 27, Jacques Piché, Fire Safety and Civil Security Coordinator announced changes that will significantly affect the Pontiac’s fire departments:  required
certification for tanker truck drivers,
funding for training and the abolishment of the ‘grandfather clause’. 
According to Piché, municipalities can no longer allow uncertified firefighters to drive their tanker trucks. “In some cases when fire safety services were low on manpower, they used unqualified firefighters, ie: those in the process of obtaining certification, to drive the tanker trucks as long as the only thing they did was stay behind the wheel. The Ministry has clearly stated they don’t approve of this, and even if the
person is only driving the truck, they want the driver fully qualified,” he explained.
In December of last year, the
government announced that funding will be available for volunteer firefighter
training programs, with priority placed on Firefighter One certification. About
$4 million will be awarded for training over a five year term, for a full investment of about $20 million. “They said they are going to cover Firefighter One training with the funds, and if there is any money left over each year, they could cover other types of training as well,” said Piché.
The funding will be provided in two installments – 50% at the beginning of the training and 50% after completion.
However, the relief of increased funding was short-lived due to an almost doubling of training fees by École Nationale des Pompiers. “We are only getting half the value for something that was supposed to benefit us. This is a case where the hoops we have to jump through are getting the benefits more than we are,” said Terry Murdock, Mayor of Thorne.
The government has also announced the abolishment of the grandfather clause; previously, anyone in the service prior to September 1998, regardless of the position they were in, were recognized as qualified.  This is no longer the case.
According the Piché, the change will affect the Pontiac’s fire departments
differently. “It depends on the service – some of the smaller municipalities have a lot of older firefighters covered by the clause while the bigger municipalities are fortunate enough to have younger
firefighters that are fully qualified.” he explained. “Firefighters covered by the clause will have to decide whether to stay in the service, and if they do, will have to become qualified,” he added.
Winston Sunstrum, Mayor of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes and Colleen Larivière, Mayor of Litchfield, highlighted the
need to consider combining smaller fire departments. “Small fire departments aren’t going to survive. There are too many fire trucks, etc. We need to sit down and seriously consider the road ahead,” said Larivière.
MRC Pontiac Warden, and Mayor of Fort-Coulonge, Raymond Durocher, reinforced the point: “Between the eighteen municipalities, look at what we have spent on fire equipment over the years.”