CORNWALL — After wildfires devastated Australia and California in 2020, it’s become clear that firefighting is an incredibly important part of tackling the effects of climate change. As such, the provincial government has committed to bolstering Ontario’s fire safety training going forward. A spokesperson for the government says that improving the 20 regional training centres will help local fire services better meet the needs of their community and result in cost savings for municipalities.
“The varied and evolving needs of local fire services in Ontario require better access to training opportunities that are most responsive to firefighters and the communities they serve,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “By expanding access to local fire training across the province, we are ensuring firefighters can count on the support and resources they need to keep Ontarians safe.”
“This is an important initiative as I have heard from our municipalities of their need for increased training and modernization of their fire services,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.
Building on a regionally connected system of training centres, the Office of the Fire Marshal will deliver fire safety training through a combination of in-person training at regional training centres, online courses, and through contracts with individual fire departments. Expanding local training opportunities will increase capacity for training and reduce the need for municipal fire departments to pay for travel and costs related to overtime and shift backfills.
As part of this plan, the Office of the Fire Marshal is also investing in two mobile units that will bring live-fire training to local fire services. Specialized equipment will also be made available to regional training centres so training can be specifically tailored to local needs.
As firefighter training opportunities are expanded across the province, the Ontario Fire College location in Gravenhurst, which has not hosted on-site training since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, will be decommissioned. Ontario Fire College staff will, however, continue to play a leading role in developing training courses.
“We have listened to fire services about the need to increase capacity for training courses and modernize the fire training program,” said Jon Pegg, Ontario’s Fire Marshal. “Moving to a blend of online and on-site training offered through regional training centres allows us to provide responsive, high-quality training to fire services across the province.”
“The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association supports the expansion of regional firefighter training centres and the modernization of programming centred around the needs of the fire service,” said Carmen Santoro, President, Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association. “Improved access to sanctioned education/training will greatly enhance the quality by standardizing the safe delivery of firefighter training.”