DISTRICT – While it may be an unfortunate sign of the times, the recent announcement about the province closing the Ontario Fire College is expected to have minimal impacts on northern fire departments.
The college, which is located in Gravenhurst, provides fire service training to hundreds of municipal fire departments that do not have the capacity or resources to provide their own in-house training.
With the college's closure on March 31, the province will continue to oversee curriculum development through an office in Toronto, while municipalities would be on the hook for field and other training requirements.
Latchford Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Beaupre said his department would send its members to the college “years ago” for training. More recently, he said a Regional Training Centre had opened up at Northern College in Timmins that was supposed to give district fire departments a closer destination for training.
Northern entered into a partnership with the Fire College in 2018 to become a Regional Training Centre for fire and emergency services.
The agreement meant that Northern could deliver Ontario Fire College course offerings and training to fire service personnel in the province.
“As far as I can remember, it was like years ago and we haven’t accessed it since,” said Beaupre of the Ontario Fire College’s training services in Gravenhurst.
“I don’t think (the closure) is going to have much of an effect on us at all,” he noted in a telephone interview.
Beaupre added that normally the Latchford department’s training for its members is done in-house.
“There’s enough of us that have experience with this and that, so we do our own training for whatever we need to do,” he explained.
“A lot of times, one of the fire departments (locally) will host the training and we sort of sign-up for it. We pay into a fund that helps to bring in training and then we take advantage of that, but with this COVID mess they’ve all been cancelled.”
Temagami Fire Department Chief Jim Sanderson says that the college’s closure for on-site training “will have limited impact to our department.
“Along with a lot of departments, I have questions about what it's being replaced with, their alternative training delivery models, Regional Training Centres, and costs,” he said in an email interview.
“I'm looking forward to seeing what their ‘modernized efforts’ and online training might bring.”
Sanderson added that the Temagami department has the internal resources and capacity to provide its firefighters with core service level training.
“We have to wait to see what future specialized training opportunities will be available and how that impacts department operations,” he said.
Jamie Mountain is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Temiskaming Speaker. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.