Terry Gervais of The Loomix Group presented recommendations in a new Fire Master Plan
Hastings and Warkworth stations need replacing/upgrading
The fire department and council deserve “a lot of credit, because that means what you’re doing today you’re doing very well.” Terry Gervais
Article by John Campbell
Campbellford – Mon., Sept. 11, 2023 – Trent Hills should replace its fire station in Hastings in the next three years, and look at upgrading or replacing the fire station in Warkworth in the next 10 to 15 years.
These and more than a dozen other recommendations are contained in a new Fire Master Plan that was presented to council at a special meeting held recently to receive the 105-page document prepared by The Loomix Group.
Loomix’s Terry Gervais also gave council an overview of the Community Risk Assessment that the Peterborough firm had done as well.
Gervais said the Hastings station on Victoria Street, built in 1969, does not meet current building codes or Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act standards.
It “isn’t meeting the current needs today, let alone be able to meet your community’s needs for the next 50 or 60 years,” Gervais told council.
(Loomix said 1,000 new homes could be built in Trent Hills over the next five to 10 years, “which could bring another 3,000 to 5,000 residents to the community.”)
The plan said “the size of apparatus” used by the department has increased over the years, and the station has become “too cramped” as a result.
Firefighters have to put on their personal protective equipment “near vehicles leaving the fire station, which is a safety hazard.”
The training room isn’t large enough to handle the number of firefighters assigned to the station, storage at the station is limited, and there are no dedicated men’s and women’s washrooms or shower facilities.
The building can’t be expanded, the plan said, because the lot isn’t big enough. It’s located on a hill and there’s no room to add more parking.
Loomix recommended the fire chief “complete a cost analysis and consider the community’s future risks, needs, and circumstances to determine where to locate the new fire station.”
A larger fire station could be built on either side of the river that divides the village, as the bridge master can be paged to close the swing bridge, to “reduce the possibility of a delayed response,” the plan stated.
Asked by Councillor Rick English if there is funding available to help pay for its construction, CAO Lynn Phillips replied the province does provide funds for capital projects but they are “very difficult” to obtain for a project “of this nature.”
The need for a new station in Hastings was identified in the fire master plan that was completed in 2012 “so we all realize it is a priority project” but figuring out how to come up with the money to build it is the challenge, she said.
A “grant opportunity coming up specifically for something like this would be unlikely in my experience.”
Loomix said the Warkworth station currently meets most of the department’s needs but its problems are the same as those in Hastings. There is “no available lot space to support new developments,” the apparatus floor is cramped, parking, storage and training space is limited, and the facility does not meet standards set by the province.
The consultant recommended a building audit and feasibility study be done in the next three years to determine whether the station should be upgraded or replaced.
(The emergency services base in Campbellford, which houses firefighters and paramedics, was completed in 2020.)
Gervais told council that the 20 recommendations his firm came up with were far fewer than the 30 to 40 it normally does when preparing fire master plans.
The fire department and council deserve “a lot of credit, because that means what you’re doing today you’re doing very well,” he said.
He praised Trent Hills’ volunteer firefighters for their dedication and for being “very passionate about providing a high level of service.”
They’re “very satisfied” with the apparatus and personal protection equipment they’re provided and feel they’re “fairly compensated” but they are concerned about having “enough volunteer staff in the future,” Gervais said. “That’s not unique to this municipality” as it’s an issue across the country, which makes for “challenging times.”
Fire Chief Shawn Jamieson, one of the fire department’s three full-time employees, said Trent Hills currently has 87 volunteer firefighters, which is “a really good number. We’re very well staffed compared to other municipalities in our area.”
Gervais said “one of the biggest challenges” confronting the fire department is managing its in-service training program. The responsibility lies with the fire chief, “on top of all the other duties that he has to do,” and that puts “a lot of pressure” on him.
Loomix recommended hiring a full-time training officer “to support the increased demands for managing the department’s training programs and the new provincial certifications.”
Having a full-time training officer “would also assist you with your daytime response,” Gervais added.
Councillor Daniel Giddings asked if the cost of the new position could be shared with neighbouring municipalities that wish to make use of the training officer’s services.
Jamieson said “there is a potential for that” to happen.
Loomix also recommended that the department revive its training committee, which was put on the “back burner” in recent years, to help the department prepare its firefighters to meet the province’s new certification standards.
English gave Jamieson kudos for how well the department is being run, as evidenced by how few recommendations the consultant had to make.
“There’s not stuff here that’s going to hit you over the head,” he said.
Council voted to support the recommendations in principle and to use the Fire Master Plan as a framework when making decisions concerning fire and emergency services in Trent Hills.
The community risk assessment is to be utilized as a guiding document to develop strategic planning for the fire department.
Gervais said Jamieson has already started implementing some of the recommendations involving “operational policy decisions” that didn’t require council approval.
The recommendations cover eight areas in total, including emergency management, occupational health and safety, training, resource deployment and response times.
The previous Fire Master Plan led to the hiring of long-serving volunteer firefighter Tim Blake as the municipality’s first full-time fire chief. The new plan noted Blake “was tasked with the challenge of both developing and implementing a plan to create one Trent Hills Fire Department and improve coordination between the three stations.”