Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey may introduce a private members bill to protect volunteer firefighters on the road.
This after the MPP received a petition with 6,300 in support of Wyoming Firefighter Neil Bain. Bain is charged with careless driving after two Wyoming fire trucks were destroyed in whiteout conditions on Highway 402 in March 2014. Bain and four other firefighters were hurt and two vehicles were destroyed in the tangle of transports and cars. Bain will be in court in November to go to trail. But firefighters believe the charge may have been politically motivitaved since local politicians were voicing concern about winter highway conditions.
So the Wyoming Firefighters Association launched a petition drive in June and has collected 6,300 signatures so far from around Lambton County and as far away as London and Northern Ontario.
Fire Chief Mike Vasey presented them to Bailey Friday. He introduced the petition to the Legislature yesterday.
“Whether it (the petition) changes things in the eyes of the court and the province, I doubt it,” says Vasey. “But it shows Neil (Bain) and (his wife) Judy the support they have – that they’re not alone in this.”
Bailey believes the petition would be encouraging to all volunteer firefighters in the province who are carefully watching this case.
But the MPP is considering something more than simply presenting a petition and showing support.
Bailey is investigating whether any legislation could be crafted to protect volunteers on fire calls – especially people who are called out routinely to provincial highways like the 402.
“We want to do everything we can do for firefighters…it’s an incentive to the province to make sure these firefighters know they’re covered. We all benefit from that.
“It is by luck of their geography that their departments are responding; we as a province need to make sure the departments are supported.”
Bailey is not sure yet what the legislation would look like adding he wants to hear from people including firefighters what might work.
Bailey says the bottom line is the community needs volunteer firefighters and he doesn’t want “firefighters not russing to the hall thinking – ‘gee I don’t want to be the driver.’ People need to feel they’re covered and protected.