Skip to main content

Canadian firefighters unions call on Orillia to stop fire station closures amid safety concerns

After Orillia's firefighters union sounded the alarm last month over safety concerns with new city police to deal with staffing shortages, unions across Canada are lending their support.

A cohort of 50 firefighters from the Ontario and international firefighters unions came to Orillia Monday to call on residents to help get the policy overturned.

In August, Orillia began closing Fire Station 2 in the city's north end to combat staffing shortages. Over a dozen times that month, the fire station was closed, an issue that has persisted into September.

"Everyone is disappointed in the decision. Safety is top of mind," said Brett Eeles, President of the Orillia Professional Firefighters Association Local 1100. "Those call times increase up to 10 minutes or more (from four minutes). The main issue is simultaneous emergencies; if station one is already out on a call and another call comes in, there's no one to respond for a significant amount of time."

Firefighters teamed up to notify the public of the ongoing issues Monday, handing out pamphlets and going door-to-door to speak with residents.

"Getting the word out to this community is critical because, for whatever reason, they (the city) don't want to share this information with the public that they're closing station two," said Fred LeBlanc, 13th district Vice President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

LeBlanc helped organize Monday's push and calls on the city to begin utilizing overtime when required and hire temporary workers instead of closing Fire Station 2.

A map by the IAFF shows that when Station 2 is in operation, 62 per cent of Orillia's roadways can be covered by fire pumps in under four minutes. When it's closed, only 28 per cent of roadways can be covered in that same time.

"If you're trapped in a house fire, and we don't have enough staff on the fire ground, we're not going to be able to get to you," said Greg Horton, President of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. "If you're overworked, you're not getting enough recuperation time. It's a demanding job psychologically and physically, and if we don't have downtime, it affects us."

Orillia's mayor declined to speak with CTV News last month when Orillia's fire association brought the issue forward. On Monday, Don McIsaac declined to speak again, reissuing the same statement to CTV News.

"As part of Council's ongoing commitment to the safety and well-being of the community, I will be recommending that the City of Orillia do a comprehensive review of the fire service, including number and location of stations, staffing levels, benchmarking, and service levels including the provision of tiered response (medical assists)," it read. "Since the mandated 24-hour shift has been implemented in our community through an arbitration order in 2018, it has proven difficult to maintain staffing levels for both stations."

The unions requested to speak about their concerns during a city council meeting but were denied that request on Monday.

"We've made a freedom of information filing today because we want to get to the bottom of who made this decision," LeBlanc added. Top Stories

Stay Connected