By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
It’s been two months since the Oshawa Professional Firefighters Association, also known as IAFF Local 465, released a community risk assessment calling for more staff and vehicles to increase response times.
The assessment, drafted by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), was the result of a longstanding belief from the union that the city should review its fire services.
The IAFF assessment calls on the city to add more staff and equipment, namely at Station 1, the city’s downtown headquarters.
The association has been critical of city decisions in the past five years, including moving personnel and vehicles from Station 1 to Stations 3 and 6.
To date, there have been no formal meetings between the union and city staff and Oshawa Fire Service management to discuss the report.
IAFF local 465 president Peter Dyson says the association “have always been willing and ready to meet.”
“We are eager to discuss the findings of the report and hopefully help the city understand,” Dyson told The Oshawa Express.
It appears the association’s wish will come true soon, as Oshawa’s commissioner of community services Ron Diskey told The Express that he and Fire Chief Derrick Clark have a meeting scheduled with union representatives on Dec. 18.
Dyson claims meetings have been set before and cancelled since the report’s release.
While he appreciates there was a municipal election shortly after the report was released, he says “the city still has to operate, and public safety does not stop.”
In response, Diskey told The Express there have been attempts to set up meetings from the city’s side but the dates provided did not work for union officials.
After a fire in January led to the death of four people, including two children, the OPFFA released an initial report highlighting potential issues in the downtown core where they say people have a higher vulnerability of being killed in a fire based on the age of the buildings and the high number of vulnerable populations in the area.
In June, Clark provided city council with a midpoint review of the city’s Fire Master Plan, created in 2013.
He noted that 27 of the 31 recommendations from that plan were either initiated or implemented at that time.
Clark also stated that Oshawa Fire Services (OFS) has improved its response times despite an increased number of calls.
Later this summer, city staff recommended a peer review of Clark’s update to be performed by Dillon Consulting, the company that originally worked on the Fire Master Plan in 2013.
Dillon would also perform a community risk assessment in the vein of what the IAFF was working on at the time.
The recommendation eventually was passed over through a tie vote by council.
Some councillors questioned the objectivity of having Dillon analyze its own report.
However, then-Oshawa mayor John Henry disagreed.
“What the review was, was to review the work that the chief had done, it wasn’t about reviewing the plan itself, this was about taking all the information that the chief put together in a very detailed report and comparing it to where we were before,” he said.
The OFS and the City of Oshawa did not formally participate in the development of the IAFF report and in fact, Dyson says, “due to lack of cooperation of the fire service and the city it got delayed.”
Dyson says he also hopes to be able to speak to city council directly about the assessment.
“We believe our report speaks for itself. There are some who will say our report is biased, but if it is biased, it is biased towards public safety and firefighter safety,” he says.