Union members cry foul over fire master plan, but chief has none of it

Union members cry foul over fire master plan, but chief has none of it
Cornwall Fire Department

CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall firefighters are coming out against a much-anticipated master plan that will govern their department for the next 15 years – but the chief is having none of it.

Members of the Cornwall Professional Firefighters Association said Wednesday the contents of the Fire Master Plan that will be aired Monday by city council is based on flawed information in some respects.

Association president Jason Crites suggested his members are not endorsing the plan, despite the fact that the union was a part of the steering committee that helped draft its contents.

“The report is flawed,” he said in an interview. He pointed to what he feels are inconsistencies in the plan, including areas where the unions suspects the plan was simply copy and pasted from other municipalities.

But specifically, Crites and his members have issues with a risk assessment that was used to catalogue Cornwall when it comes to the numbers and severity of the fires we experience.

The union claims consultant Steve Thurlow soft-pedalled that area of the plan, because Cornwall is designated a “suburban area” that requires a minimum of 10 firefighters per shift.

But the union is arguing Cornwall is actually a so-called “urban” community, with many more fires – and consequently a minimum of 15 firefighters per shift is needed.

“Ultimately it is a data issue,” said association vice-president John Powers. “This a document that takes a bunch of data from within the city…analyzes it and at the end it spits out basically how you should run your fire department.

“So when we go through it and find a bunch of inconsistencies…that’s the crux of the whole issue.”

Fire chief Rick McCullough said no way.

“Definitely not,” he said. “(The consultant) went beyond the scope. That’s what the fire marshal said.”

Indeed because the plan created so many disagreements before its release, it was decided to send it to the Office of the Fire Marshal to be vetted.

McCullough said the fire marshal’s office found nothing of consequence that would call the authenticity of the plan into question.

“They’re not calling into question the consultant’s report,” he added.

McCullough defended the plan and suggested the steering committee “bent over backwards” to ensure transparency, including adding another web-based assessment tool to ensure accurate information was collected.

The plan is expected to be endorsed by city council Monday.

The plan contains references to “CYFS”, which the fire association suggests is likely “Central York Fire Services” in Newmarket. The fire association believes these areas of the master plan have been copied and pasted from other similar reports.

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