Letter: Very good news

Re: “Town signs ‘historic’ fire agreement with CNL,” NRT May 30.

Congratulations to Deep River council for the historic fire services partnership with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories!

This agreement is hard-won progress arising from a decade of effort to restructure the fire department and is very good news for the protection of Deep River residents.

Deep River taxpayers had been paying Cadillac prices for a clunker fire service – one that the Ontario Fire Marshal said, due to its small size, did “not have the internal resources to effectively, efficiently, and safely, conduct fire suppression operations at single family dwellings or at any higher risk occupancy,” in its 2011 review of the department.

Taxpayers will still be paying for the Cadillac, but can now at least drive it home.

With the deployment of CNL’s force for a 24/7 presence at our fire hall, backed by Deep River’s full-time force and a new large contingent of volunteers – all of whom will now be properly trained, our fire protection will exceed that of any other town our size.

Beyond the size issue, the agreement opens the door to solving other problems: the North Renfrew Times has reported serious difficulties in the department and in its relationship with senior staff and council over the past years.

The fact that Deep River has had a string of fire chiefs that have stayed for only short periods hasn’t helped.

It is hard to attract a qualified chief to move to Deep River to lead such a small department.

This agreement sets the stage for a stable source of qualified leaders, new working relationships, and a higher level of professionalism.

Finally, this agreement is a creative solution to the legal bind that the town faced as a result of the problematic “no-contracting out” language in the collective agreement with its firefighters.

Despite all this good, some may feel frustrated because costs continue to be higher than in other towns around, and because the council has not been able to discuss the restructuring of the department.

But let’s pause now to recognize the progress that has been made.

And now with a long-term agreement in place, there may be more opportunity for community discussions about our fire service model.

Let’s consider: What is possible in a new era of partnership with CNL? How can this help us move beyond decades-old problems?

How can CNL’s expertise help us with adopting better fire prevention and mitigation strategies that can save the lives that fire suppression won’t?

Daniel Banks, former deputy mayor, Deep River, 2011-14