“That would be the main idea,” said Bruce Campbell, Russell fire chief, during an interview following the January 13 council session. The growth of the municipality is forcing our hand. We have no choice.”
The 140-page report was prepared as part of the 2019 business plan for the local fire departments. A consultant, with expertise in developing master plans for fire departments in other Ontario municipalities, was hired to research issues dealing with fire prevention and response, consult with both departments on present and future needs and concerns, and then draft a list of recommendations for council to consider and pursue over the next five years of upgrading and improving fire services for the township.
The final master plan report presented to council includes more than 70 recommendations, most of them minor in nature. The primary recommendation calls for amalgamating the Russell and Embrun village fire departments into a single municipal fire department with a single fire chief. The merger wouldn’t change operations at the two fire stations, except they would each have a district fire chief who would report to the municipal fire chief.
The report also recommends several full-time positions for the new municipal fire department. Besides a full-time fire chief, there would also be a full-time administrative assistant, and either one or two full-time fire prevention officers.
Chief Campbell noted that having these full-time positions will be necessary given future projections for the township’s growing population and expansion of its residential and commercial areas.
“One of the three main lines of defence for fire protection for a community is public education and prevention,” said Campbell. “It’s getting tougher and tougher, with just part-time staff, to get that message and information out there.”
Council members and administration will go over the report during the next few months to determine a priority list for the recommendations. Administration will also provide council with approximate timelines and possible costs to implement all of the recommendations.