Champlain Township council briefly discussed the monthly fire department reports, airing what seemed to be a general feeling of the need for more accountability.
West Hawkesbury ward councillor Sarah Bigelow opened the discussion when council was reviewing monthly reports contained in its agenda. While the reports from each of the two municipal fire departments are similar, they are not consolidated. Bigelow said that “man hour” totals did not provide much information. She asked if it was possible to know which firefighters attended which fire events and which firefighters, for example, were present to account for 48 volunteer hours at the Halloween Haunted Prison in L’Orignal.
While the Vankleek Hill and L’Orignal fire department reports are similar, they are not identical in presentation.
The October report for the L’Orignal Fire Department shows 77 man hours hours allocated to attending fires, while Vankleek Hill, shows 21 man hours hours. On October 26, there are 65 man hours listed as mutual aid provided by L’Orignal to the Hawkesbury fire department.
“The chiefs have policies in place and our volunteer firefighters are paid but they can go to things on a volunteer basis,” said Champlain Township CAO Paula Knudsen.
L’Orignal ward councillor André Roy wondered what control the township had over which firefighters are called to various events.
According to Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel, there are two teams within fire departments, which have their responsibilities.
Knudsen said that she was not aware of individual fire calls — she said there in an Emergency Response bylaw related to controlling the scene.
“We do understand the good work that they do,”said Vankleek Hill ward councillor Peter Barton.
Bigelow said she felt the fire chiefs should be accountable. “If you give me (information) that there were 48 volunteer hours, I want to know who was there.”
Vankleek Hill ward councillor Troy Carkner offered that the Vankleek Hill firefighters had raised about $3,500 at the group’s annual dance.
“Nobody should get a blank cheque,” said West Hawkesbury ward councillor Gerry Miner. “But on the other hand, if we want all of this information, they are going to spend hours reporting it.”