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Merger plans go up in flames for Innisfil, Bradford fire departments

Talks for a planned merger between two municipal South Simcoe fire departments have been extinguished.

On May 2, Bradford West Gwillimbury's town council voted to dissolve the Joint Interim Fire Governance Advisory Committee (JIFGAC) with the Town of Innisfil after the upfront costs proved too much for Bradford to bear.

It would have cost Bradford $200,000 over six years to transition to a consolidated service with the Town of Innisfil, a plan that had been in the works since last summer as each town looked to find efficiencies within their fire services.

"It's a shame. We were very close to getting it done," said Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor James Leduc. "But there was a little bit of a number difference between us, and the two sides both decided that we couldn't go any further."

When talks began, a report found that consolidating both fire services would further reduce costs while improving services after each found some savings by hiring one fire chief to do both jobs.

"We did all save money in the end (by 2030), and I think there's still some future to look at," Leduc added. "I hope that we do revisit this down the road."

The towns already share a police service in the South Simcoe Police Service, which the JIFGAC looked at as a potential model to follow.

"The problem with that is, the police service has its own separate board under provincial legislation that fire simply cannot have without changes to the municipal act," said Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin. "The fire service would have to be either employed by the Town of Innisfil or the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, but I think if we had that kind of board, negotiations would have been much smoother."

Dollin said some positives came from the year-long discussions, such as the further expansion of training and mutual aid agreements between the fire departments.

Despite that, dual Fire Chief Brent Thomas said he was left disappointed.

"We put a ton of work into this over the past year," Thomas said. "Thankfully, not all is lost, as some agreements we've made are still salvageable."

While they won't be merging, Bradford's fire service is geared for expansion.

Thomas said it will have hired 20 new firefighters by 2024, with 12 already accounted for this year.

A second fire station is also in the works, with a location yet to be chosen.

Thomas will also remain the fire chief for both departments for the foreseeable future.

Innsfil's council will vote to dissolve the JIFGAC on Wednesday. Top Stories

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