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Hastings Highlands Fire Department Station Structure Review

The goal of the 'Hastings Highlands Fire Department Station Structure Review Proposal' is to reorganize the existing fire services assets (i.e. stations, apparatus, equipment and staffing) to best service and meet the needs of the Municipality, stakeholders and non-developed areas (i.e. forests) rationalized based upon the physical size, population (inc. population density) and available funding base.

The goal is to optimize the current Fire Service delivery model and reduce both operational as well as capital requirements, while maintaining acceptable levels of service coverage to stakeholders. The solution is to reorganize the current Fire Service delivery model, reduce the overall number of Fire Stations as well as relocate an existing Fire Station. 

Two primary options are explored in the HHFD Station Structure Review:

Option #1:
Maintain status quo, being the existing Fire Service delivery model of 6 stations brought up to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for staffing, training, apparatus, equipment and facilities over a 10-year period. Replacing 3 stations, as well as renovating 3 stations.


Option #2:
Restructure existing Fire Service delivery model reducing to 3 stations, relocating 2 stations, brought up to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for staffing, training, apparatus, equipment and facilities over a 10-year period.

Options for reorganization include:

  • Reduction in physical fire stations
  • Relocation of existing fire stations
  • Staffing alignment to number of stations
  • Human resources alignment
  • Reduction in apparatus & equipment
  • Reduction in required Officers

 

How to Submit Your Comments - Deadline June 17, 2024 at 4:00 p.m.

  • Complete the online 'Have Your Say Hastings Highlands Survey'   
  • Paper copies available at the Municipal Office and the HH Library (33011 Hwy 62N, Maynooth, ON)
  • Comments and Feedback are being received until June 17, 2024 at 4:00 p.m.

Public Information Session - May 30, 2024 at 6:30 p.m.

  • A public information night will be held in Emond Hall on Thursday, May 30, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. where a screening of the Fire Department’s presentation from the April 17, 2024 Council meeting will be available for viewing. The presentation that is scheduled to be played at the May 30th meeting has been provided below for viewing. 

HHFD Station Structure Review Presentation to Council - April 17, 2024

Important Information and Resources

Hastings Highlands' Fire Department completed a presentation to Council at the April 17, 2024 Regular Meeting of Council outlining the current Fire Service delivery model and options to optimize the model to reduce both operational as well as capital requirements, while maintaining acceptable levels of service coverage to stakeholders. 

Select 'play' on the video above to watch the 'HH Fire Department Station Structure Review' presentation prepared by the Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief. 

HH Fire Department Station Structure Review - Business Case 
HH Fire Department Station Structure Review - Presentation

Frequently Asked Questions

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions related to the Fire Station Structure Review Plan and general fire-related questions below. If you still have a question, submit a Customer Service Request and a member of our Fire Department will contact you directly.   

Answer: Response time is dependent on multiple factors including address, road conditions, weather, time of day, visibility of 911 sign, distance off of primary (maintained) road, etc. In some areas of the Municipality, it may take longer to reach some distant properties based upon the 3-station model, although as fire stations are replaced, this will change as new fire stations will be positioned to provide the best service coverage for the municipality, based on population, population density and risk.

Answer: Tax rate increases are not solely based upon fire services, but all municipal services from ball fields to bylaw enforcement, from signage to library services, from roads improvements to cemetery maintenance, etc. Even with the proposed 3-station model, we will still see fire services costs increase due to inflation, wages, renewal and replacement costs, etc. Although by limiting or “right sizing” fire services to that of the area we serve, we can reduce the size of increases we will need going forward.

Answer: The expected gaps in service are limited to potential increase in response time to some areas of the municipality. These service gaps will largely be mitigated as fire stations are relocated/replaced to best service the Municipality. Further, we expect these gaps to be limited as we have been operating with 3 active stations for approximately 2 years. Station #5 (Lake St. Peter) closed due to mold and structural issues in July 2022, Station #6 (Centreview Rd) has not been active due to lack of firefighters since March 2022, Station #2 (North Baptiste Lake Rd.) inactive for 10+ years due to lack of firefighters and apparatus.

Answer: Yes, a closure of a fire station may result in an increase in insurance rates, although this is dependent on multiple factors, one of which is the distance from an active fire station. If a property owner’s fire protection changes due to a closed hall, they could initially experience a rather large increase in insurance premium. The reasoning is that their insurance provider may have placed them with a certain insurer since they were within 5 kms for instance. However, now that they are within, say 14 kms of a firehall, that particular insurer may no longer be competitive since they use unprotected rates over 13 kms. Therefore, they would need to work with their broker to ensure they are with the insurer that provides a competitive rate in their area after there has been a change in protection.

The closure of a firehall may not necessarily mean a change in premium at all. For a number of regions in North Hastings, a policyholder may be within, say 15 kms of a couple of firehalls. (i.e., you live between two villages/hamlets). The requirement is that you are within a certain distance of a “responding firehall”. With mutual aid agreements etc., depending on the insurer, this could be a responding firehall from other townships or other areas in your municipality.

It would be the responsibility of the policy holder to contact their insurance company regarding a closure of a firehall. This could be considered a material change in risk. As a result, an insurance company could deny a claim if there was a fire claim without the insurance company being notified of the change.

Answer: After completing a comprehensive assessment and analysis, we confirm that the Municipality does not have the available funding capacity to deliver services meeting the legislative requirements in keeping with Council’s direction, within Bylaw 2020-012 Establishing and Regulating a Fire Department (Level of Service Bylaw) based on the existing 6-station model (Option #1). The current fire service delivery model is ineffective, inefficient, and prohibitive in terms of cost and human resources. This is largely due to the excessive number of physical fire stations throughout the Municipality. Even with this base change in service delivery, we as a Municipality will be faced with ever-increasing costs for all services that will increasingly make it difficult, if not impossible to manage fiscally without significant limitations on new programs, up to and including reductions to existing programs. This reduction can and will be completed in a way that will continue to provide acceptable levels of fire service coverage to standard, for our entire municipality.

Answer: We currently have a compliment of 31 volunteer firefighter personnel, of which 24 are active.

Answer: We currently operate with 6 Stations, (3 of which are currently inactive due to facility building deficiencies and staffing levels)

Answer:

In 2023, we responded to 95 calls

In 2022, we responded to 93 calls

In 2021, we responded to 82 calls

In 2020, we responded to 101 calls

In 2019, we responded to 71 calls

Answer: Multiple other options have been considered, although from the research and review of the data the only viable option for our Municipality is the 3-station model.

Answer: This is difficult to quantify as there are many factors that determine how many fire stations a municipality operates, including municipal area, population, population density, stakeholder risk, tax base, as well as if the municipality has developed the Fire Service to meet their specific needs or if it was inherited (as in our case and not purpose-designed) etc.

Although, the HH Fire Department conducted a review of the 50 fire departments in Ontario of similar population and land area to Hastings Highlands. Of the 50 Fire Departments studied, their structures were comprised of 1-6 stations. Results are as follows:

32% had 1 Fire Station
38% had 2 Fire Stations
12% had 3 Fire Stations
10% had 4 Fire Stations
8% had 5 Fire Stations
2% had 6 Fire Stations

NOTE:

Of the 50 Fire Departments reviewed, Hastings Highlands land area (966 sq kms) was within the 82nd percentile - meaning that 81% of the fire departments reviewed had land areas smaller than Hastings Highlands. Hastings Highlands population (4,385) was within the 62nd percentile - meaning that 61% of the municipalities reviewed had populations less than Hastings Highlands.

Answer: The opportunities of this project far outweigh the limitations. They include:

  • Cost savings through efficiencies:
    • Reduction in physical facility assets and associated operating costs:
      • Insurance (building/property Ins.)
      • Property and building maintenance (lawn maintenance, snow removal, pest control, day-to-day maintenance and repairs)
      • Utilities (heat, hydro, telephone & data)
      • Equipment & supplies (i.e. office, garage, washrooms, etc.)
  • Reduction in rolling stock assets and associated operating costs:
  • Insurance (vehicle)
  • Vehicle maintenance, annual safety certification, pumper testing, etc.
  • Licensing, fuel, oil & consumables
  • Weekly checks, washing, inventory, documentation
  • Reduced working capital (long-term):
  • Physical facilities
  • Apparatus
  • Capital equipment (i.e. SCBA, washer/extractors, dryers, etc.)
  • Decrease in the level of funding required for maintaining adequate reserves for renewal
  • Reduction in required/optimal number of firefighters and associated operating costs:
  • PPE (bunker gear, etc.)
  • Two-way radios and pagers
  • Training costs
  • Station meetings/practices

The limitations of this project largely remain with community perception, that consolidating stations equates to reduced coverage. This may be significantly mitigated through the development and roll-out of a comprehensive communications plan.

 

Answer: The implementation of this plan (if Option #2), post-Council approval, will be to:

  • Communicate the closure of the 3 subject stations including stations #2, #5 & #6 through radio, print and social media
  • Update of our HH Website, to reflect the removal of stations #2, #5 & #6 from active service
  • Disconnect telephone and Internet services at station #2, #5 & #6
  • Consolidate the apparatus and equipment and liquidate unnecessary surplus
  • Remove fire station signage from station #2 and temporarily utilize as a storage garage
  • Remove fire station signage from station #6 and maintain as a heated storage garage for back-up service apparatus and equipment that requires heated storage
  • Remove all HH Fire Department equipment and apparatus from temporary fire station in the Lake St. Peter Community Centre
  • Install a locked security enclosure for HH Fire Department Radio (repeater) equipment located in Lake St. Peter Community Centre
  • Create capital plan to renew/replace aging apparatus that meets NFPA/FUS standards
  • Create 5-year capital plan to relocate station #3 to Hwy 62 N/E of Maple Leaf as per “Hastings Highlands, Fire Service Review” authored by “Emergency Management Group” as accepted by Council for information on July 19, 2023. (Res. 326-2023) Current plan is to redevelop existing municipal property
  • Create 10-year capital plan to redevelop and or relocate station #1 into close proximity to Hwy 62 in Birds Creek. Current plan is to redevelop existing municipal property

Answer: The available human resources pool for potential firefighters within Hastings Highlands is significantly limited and as such, it is strongly recommended to limit the physical number of stations to keep those fire stations operating within the standard of 15 firefighters per station.

Also of note, there is a severe shortage of volunteer firefighters throughout Ontario as well as across the country. Many municipalities are finding it very challenging to recruit adequate numbers to meet the base service needs.

Answer: The cost to train a new firefighter for the HH Fire Department is just over $13,000.00.

Answer: A new firefighter in Hastings Highlands requires just over 238 hours of training.

Answer: The annual 2024 Operating & Capital budget for the HH Fire Department is just over $1.3 M.

Answer: Fire Safety is paramount to prevent fires as well as to know what to do in the event of a fire:

•    Ensure you have working Smoke Detectors and check them regularly. 

•    Ensure you have working Carbon Monoxide Detectors and check them regularly. Click here for further information.

•    Ensure you have a Fire Escape Plan, If a fire occurred in your home tonight, would your family get out safely? Everyone must know what to do and where to go when the smoke alarm sounds. Take a few minutes with everyone in your household to make and practice a home fire escape plan. Click here for further information.

•    Purchase a portable Fire Extinguisher, In the event of a small, contained fire, having a fire extinguisher handy to eliminate the blaze is important. But it’s also important to understand how to properly use a fire extinguisher before a blaze occurs. Click here for some other fire extinguisher tips.

•    Seasonal Fire Safety: Practice seasonal fire safety. Click on the corresponding tab for specific seasonal fire safety information.
o    Spring Fire Safety
o    Summer Fire Safety
o    Autumn Fire Safety
o    Winter Fire Safety

•    911 Sign Visibility, Ensure your 911 sign is easily visible from the road. Note: Firefighters responding in an emergency use 911 signs to locate the emergency scene.

•    Property access, please ensure access to your property by keeping driveways (and other access points) open and accessible. Keep snow, trees, branches, etc. cleared to allow for unencumbered access onto your property.

•    Sprinkler Systems, working smoke alarms, combined with a residential sprinkler system, offer families the highest level of protection and the best opportunity for survival during a home fire. By responding to a fire while it is still small, sprinklers control the spread of deadly heat, flames and toxic smoke.

This is generally a statement of priority. A sprinkler system can be installed in a new home for as little as $1.50 per square foot which, in many cases, would represent less than 2% of the total construction cost. System installation in existing homes is simple, but more expensive. Since your family, irreplaceable possessions and home are a precious part of your life, you can't afford not to have a sprinkler system. Installing a residential fire sprinkler system is also eligible for a premium discount with some insurers.

•    Portable Pumps, portable pumps are an option, cottage associations and individuals to provide an extra layer of protection for properties. 

19.    Is there anything HHFD is doing to improve response times? 
A: Yes, Hastings Highlands Fire Department is currently working on the following to improve response times for fire suppression activities:

•    Dry Hydrant project, that will see the addition of 5 new Dry Hydrants in strategic locations throughout the Municipality. These dry hydrants will provide a high-volume fixed water source that is available 24Hrs a day, year round, and speed access to reliable water sources.

•    Mapping Water Sources, we are also working to map and document all available water sources within our municipality to provide accurate information on alternative firefighting water source locations to speed the initial set-up for fire suppression.

•    Electronic Navigation Aids, we have procured cellular based navigation aids to be installed in all front-line Pumper Apparatus to provide direct navigation support to emergency scenes. This will also allow information from Dispatch services to be relayed directly to this device. 

•    High Volume Hose, we have budgeted to procure and additional 1100’ of High Volume 4” supply hose which will increase the volume of water available to support fire suppression activities as well as allow more opportunities to directly connect to physical water sources. 

•    Recruitment, we are actively recruiting new firefighters to supplement our existing compliment as well as increase overall numbers. Note, as we are comprised of Volunteers, not every firefighter is able to respond to every call for service.

•    Training, HHFD is now a fire department, that at its core is built and operated on a foundation of training. We have moved to a model were we now train/practice skills 3 out of 4 meetings per month (the 4th meeting per month, we conduct equipment checks and other duties).  

•    Group Training, HHFD has developed and adopted a group training model, with group training scheduled every month bringing firefighters from all stations together as a larger group to train/practice together which has shown positive improvements in combined responses, on-scene coordination, efficiency, speed, teamwork and camaraderie.  

 

Answer: Yes, Hastings Highlands Fire Department is currently working on the following to improve response times for fire suppression activities:

•    Dry Hydrant project that will see the addition of 5 new dry hydrants in strategic locations throughout the Municipality. These dry hydrants will provide a high-volume fixed water source that is available 24 hours a day, year round, and speed access to reliable water sources.

•    Mapping Water Sources - we are also working to map and document all available water sources within our municipality to provide accurate information on alternative firefighting water source locations to speed the initial set-up for fire suppression.

•    Electronic Navigation Aids - we have procured cellular based navigation aids to be installed in all front-line pumper apparatus to provide direct navigation support to emergency scenes. This will also allow information from dispatch services to be relayed directly to this device. 

•    High Volume Hose - we have budgeted to procure and additional 1100’ of High Volume 4” supply hose which will increase the volume of water available to support fire suppression activities as well as allow more opportunities to directly connect to physical water sources. 

•    Recruitment - we are actively recruiting new firefighters to supplement our existing compliment as well as increase overall numbers. Note, as we are comprised of volunteers, not every firefighter is able to respond to every call for service.

•    Training - HHFD is now a fire department, that at its core is built and operated on a foundation of training. We have moved to a model were we now train/practice skills 3 out of 4 meetings per month (the 4th meeting per month, we conduct equipment checks and other duties).  

•    Group Training - HHFD has developed and adopted a group training model, with group training scheduled every month bringing firefighters from all stations together as a larger group to train/practice together which has shown positive improvements in combined responses, on-scene coordination, efficiency, speed, teamwork and camaraderie.  

•    We also regularly review response time’s to more isolated areas with low population densities, within our Municipality to look for opportunities were an Automatic Aid Agreement* may be beneficial. We currently have an Automatic Aid Agreement in place with Madawaska Valley Fire Department to provide initial response coverage to areas of Hastings Highlands (Chippawa Road) that are only accessible by Fire Truck 7 Km North of Combermere on Hwy 62.

* Automatic Aid - means any agreement under which a Municipality agrees to provide an initial response to fires, rescues and emergencies that may occur in a part of another where a fire department if the Municipality is capable of responding more quickly than any fire department situated in the other Municipality; or a Municipality agrees to provide a supplemental response to fires, rescues and emergencies that may occur in a part of another Municipality where a fire department in the Municipality is capable of providing the quickest supplemental response to fires, rescues and emergencies occurring in the part of another Municipality.

Answer: No, in reality, this is not cost cutting. It is future cost avoidance as we don’t have 6 active stations now, nor have we had 6 active stations for many years. The current funding level for fire services doesn’t meet the needs of 3 active stations at this time, so costs will be increasing even with a 3-station model. If we move forward with 6 stations we will see dramatic cost increases and reflected tax increases.

Answer: The reduction of Fire Stations has little to no effect on forest fire suppression activities in Hastings Highlands, as the primary responsibility for forest fire suppression rests with the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests). If we have a forest fire in our area of responsibility that is beyond our capacity to manage effectively, we may request MNRF support as needed. This support includes manpower, equipment, apparatus (inc. helicopters, water bombers, ATV’s, etc.)

Regardless of the Fire Station model (e.g. 3-Station or 6-Station) if at any time we lack the resources or capacity to effectively manage an incident (fire) we can trigger a Mutual Aid* response. A Mutual Aid response allows the required resources to be summoned from any or all other participating fire departments, within the Mutual Aid agreement. These resources include, but are not limited to: additional firefighters, apparatus (inc. pumpers, tankers, equipment vans, vacuum trucks, etc. etc.), facilities, logistics support, labour, materials, and equipment, etc. 
We are currently covered by two separate Mutual Aid agreements in Hastings Highlands, The first is the North Hastings Mutual Aid agreement between Hastings Highlands and:
•    The Town of Bancroft
•    The Township of Carlow/Mayo
•    The Township of Faraday
•    The Township of Wollaston
•    The Township of Limerick
•    The Township of Tudor and Cashel 

And the second is the Hastings and Prince Edward County Mutual and Automatic Aid Plan and Program which provides reciprocal agreements for all participating fire departments within the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.

* Mutual Aid - means a program to provide/receive assistance in the case of a major emergency in a Municipality, community, or area.


Mutual Aid agreement, Plan or System - means the mutual aid plan developed under the authority of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 and direction of the Fire Marshal to facilitate provision of fire protection services to the residents of a county, district or region under a coordinated and co-operative system.

Become a Volunteer Firefighter

The Hastings Highlands Fire Department Recruitment Package has been developed to inform the public of the Volunteer Firefighter position requirements and to help guide interested Volunteers through the recruitment process to become a Hastings Highlands Volunteer Firefighter.

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