Three Argenteuil municipalities are studying how to better coordinate their fire department services. Lachute, Brownsburg-Chatham and Saint-André-d’Argenteuil have hired Icarium Group Conseil, a consulting firm based on Ile-Perrot to conduct the $25,000 study. Lachute Mayor Carl Péloquin said half of the cost will be paid by the Québec Department of Municipal Affairs and the remainder will be paid for in equal parts by each municipality. Péloquin added that the study will take three to four months to complete.
The study will focus on how firefighters are recruited and retained—tasks that are not always easy for small or rural municipalities that often have an entirely part-time or volunteer force of firefighters. Restrictions due to costs and available human resources often make it challenging for smaller municipalities to meet their obligations at all hours of the day for their entire territory. Training requirements for firefighters in Québec vary, depending on the municipal population. Lachute, Brownsburg-Chatham, and Saint-André-d’Argenteuil have Class I firefighters who meet the requirements for municipalities with populations of 5,000 to 25,000. Québec’s Fire Security Law requires Class I firefighters to have a professional diploma in fire prevention studies or a similar attestation that is recognized by the Department of Education and the government’s National Firefighter’s School. Fire department officers require additional training provided by the school. In Ontario, part-time or volunteer firefighters require a minimum of a high school diploma. Full-time firefighters are not required to have any post-secondary education, but the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services says that prospective firefighters will have an easier time getting hired if they complete a Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training Program, which is offered at several community colleges. Officers receive additional training through the Ontario Fire College.
Mayor Péloquin said the study is about maintaining a high standard of service and will lead to improved response times. Those comments were echoed by Brownsburg-Chatham Fire Security Director Richard Laporte. Both he and Péloquin also said the study will not result in a reduction in the number of firefighters or fire stations. Lachute has 25 firefighters and one station. Brownsburg-Chatham has 25 firefighters and three stations. There are 23 firefighters in Saint-André-d’Argenteuil and one station. The three municipalities already have mutual aid agreements with each other to aid if needed. “We have an obligation to protect the population,” said Laporte, who emphasized that the intent of the study is to ensure Québec’s first response standards can be maintained, that a ready force of firefighters is on call when required, and that all areas of the municipalities receive adequate fire protection services.