Petrolia and Enniskillen look at making fire chief full-time


Petrolia/North Enniskillen firefighters at the scene of an accident in 2014. The chief has asked the fire management committee to consider making his job full-time to deal with increasing demands from the province.


The chief of the Petrolia/North Enniskillen Fire Department says it is time for a full-time chief.

Lawrence Swift talked with the fire management committee – made up of politicians from both Petrolia and Enniskillen which fund the department – recently.

Petrolia Councilor Joel Field, who is the head of the committee, says over the years the province and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office has made more demands on volunteers including “more paperwork and more fire prevention inspections which have just got bigger and bigger.”

Field says the local department has worked with local rest homes and group homes on their fire plans which are now required by the province and it has taken a lot of time.

“The fire marshal has said in the past …we’re moving away from volunteer fire chiefs,” says Field. Swift agrees.

The chief took two weeks of his vacation working with other firefighters to help nursing and rest homes compile their Life Safety Plans. “It is a new requirement this year and is something that needs to be done for the safety of vulnerable occupants,” Swift tells The Independent noting it is a legal requirement now.

“While were carrying on as volunteers the expectations of the requirements are stretching us pretty thin. We have some very dedicated people, we calculate firefighters do 8,000 hours of work every year in the community. That’s an awful lot of work when you have your own job on top of that.”

Swift says if there was a full-time employee on hand those types of task would be done quicker.

Councilor Ross O’Hara, who is also on the fire board, says he heard the same thing the last time he was a member of council. “It’s a big commitment…and every year it will be bigger. Do we need it? I’m not sure if we do or if we don’t,” he told councilors Monday. “I was on council 11 years ago and was told the same thing then. It would be good, but it is a matter of dollars and cents.”

Swift suggested to the committee he could first take on the position part-time in 2015 and eventually become full time by 2017. He also suggested the chief’s salary should be about $90,000.

O’Hara says once benefits are added in that cost could climb to $120,000. Mayor John McCharles adds other items, such as vehicles and support staff, could follow boosting the fire budget higher.  “There is going to have to be a lot more discussion before this moves forward.”

The fire management board is working on a joint meeting between Petrolia and Enniskillen council to talk about the issue. Petrolia foots 60 per cent of the $288,361 budget and Enniskillen pays 40 per cent. A date has yet to be set, but O’Hara says, “both councils will have to be on side” if the chief’s job turns into full-time employment.