Mapleton endorses Wellington County application for regional fire training centre

Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst set to close at the end of April

MAPLETON – Council here has endorsed a County of Wellington application for a regional fire training centre.

A motion to support the application was approved unanimously by township council on Feb. 24 following a report by Mapleton Fire Chief Rick Richardson.

The report explains the province recently announced plans to close the Ontario Fire College at Gravenhurst by the end of April, along with plans to create regional training centres in locations around the province.

“Wellington County has developed an internal training operation guided by the hiring of a county training coordinator in 2014,” Richardson explains in the report.

“With this addition to our training service, we have been able to provide a recruit training program with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) certification.”

He added, “It has also enabled the County of Wellington to incorporate local NFPA Company Officer and Fire Instructor courses and testing using our adjunct instructors and testing proctors from the Ontario Fire Marshal.”

Though the closing of the Ontario Fire College represents “a significant reduction of training services” to Ontario fire departments, the report states, “the regional training method is an efficient way to locally produce certification to our members.”

The report points out an application is being made by the County of Wellington to the Ontario Fire Marshal Emergency Management for a regional training centre.

“Although we have been operating as a county training facility, it is unknown at this time whether the new province model will provide funding for regional training operations,” Richardson adds in the report.

“We’ve been part of the Wellington County Training Academy for six or seven years now,” Richardson told council, noting local firefighters were previously sent to a now-closed regional training facility in Blyth for some courses.

He pointed out there are some advantages to localized training, as under the current system local firefighters taking courses in Gravenhurst had to take a week off work to attend the Ontario Fire College.

Richardson said the province plans to establish 20 regional training centres around the province.

Little would change for the county program if it became one of the regional facilities, Richardson speculated.

“The only thing that changes for us is we will have to open up some of the courses to some of the other people in other areas,” he stated.

However, the chief noted, regional centres won’t be able to match the Ontario Fire College’s $55 per student fee, which included instruction, accommodation and meals for the week-long courses.

“Fifty-five dollars is pretty darn cheap to train anybody on anything,” Richardson said.

Councillor Dennis Craven asked if any provincial funding for the regional training centres is anticipated.

“We hope to hear on that soon,” Richardson replied.

Mayor Gregg Davidson noted, “You would think, with the very inexpensive price that the Ontario Fire College was charging, that there would be some funding … they were subsidizing it already.”

Councillor Marline Ottens asked if opening up Wellington County courses to outside fire departments would “affect the ability of our own trainees to get a space in there?”

Richardson said training would be offered first to members of local departments.

“We offer the programming locally already and it sounds like you are quite happy with it,” observed councillor Michael Martin.

However, Martin wondered what the advantage would be of operating a local training centre if it turns out there is no provincial funding.

“It sounds like there are some unknowns to it,” said Martin.

Davidson wondered, with the move to regional training centres by the province, “is it possible that they will shut down the more localized ones like we currently have?”

Richardson agreed it’s possible the county could be left “out of the loop.”

“The important thing is to get the proper training for people,” said Richardson.