On January 10th, 2011, Chris McDonough became the first full-time fire chief for South Dundas.
Almost a year later, on January 4th, 2012, he talked with The Leader about the many changes that have taken place, including the amalgamation of three fire departments into one.
The Morrisburg, Iroquois, and Williamsburg stations came together to form what is now known as the South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services (SDFES), a name chosen by McDonough to reflect the variety of services provided.
Such services include, but are not limited to: public education, inspections, suppression capabilities, water rescue, and auto extrications. As McDonough, attested, “it’s been a busy, but very positive year. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.”
He went on to explain that, in addition to regular fire suppression services, “as the community grows, more services are required.” He pointed out, for example, that SDFES is also responsible for the area’s auto extrication calls as well as calls associated with incidents on the St. Lawrence River.
McDonough attributes many of the changes to population growth. In the summer, with tourism and the addition of “more people coming to visit the community,” the SDFES is much busier. In fact, “call volume was up last year.”
According to McDonough, Christmas time and the winter months “people tend to get complacent in regards to fire and life safety.” Here he referred to the predominance of accidental fires due to improper use of candles, heating, decorations, and, in addition, to the lack of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in homes.
McDonough reminded that South Dundas council recently passed a by-law making carbon monoxide detectors in homes mandatory that have fuel fired appliances or attached garages. He believes that South Dundas is the “first in the county to get that by-law in place.”
He would point out to residents that the by-law “is for their own safety.” In fact, McDonough reported that last week Ottawa Fire responded to an incident where a family was transported to hospital with severe CO symptoms due to a defective furnace.
The South Dundas firefighters have been promoting the carbon monoxide alarm program along with the smoke alarm program to great effect. So far, as promised earlier in the fall, they have been able to visit 50 homes in the township to check and install smoke alarms. The program, McDonough says, “has been well received in the community and has been very successful.”
As for the firefighters themselves, according to McDonough, the deputy-chiefs and firefighters from all the stations “really work well together. There’s no longer three separate fire stations.”
“We’re working together and moving forward in a really positive way.”
Representatives from each of the three stations have formed a training committee and a fire prevention committee, which meet monthly. Everyone is dedicated to ensuring that all members are “in line” with the section 21 training guidelines.
In fact, McDonough revealed that, going forward, the firefighters will be using the new training facility in Lyndhurst, Ontario.
In addition to the aforementioned monthly meeting, Chief McDonough also meets monthly with the three deputy and assistant deputy-chiefs from each station. As he explained, the stations are now working as one, which means assessing needs and helping each other out when necessary.
“We rely on each other,” he said. “We’re all coordinating together now. The officers and firefighters are working really well together. It’s been quite a transition.”
Another positive change for the South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services can be found in its administration. Reports, training records, and inventory from all three stations have been brought together to form one main archive. In addition to providing easier access to information, the new system also allows the chief to ensure that the SDFES records are complete and properly filed.
“This has also been a cost savings to the residents; having everything centralized we can evaluate our resources and avoid duplication,” said McDonough.
As for fire team members, McDonough was quick to commend and applaud the generosity and professionalism of everyone. In terms of the number of volunteer hours many of the firefighters put in, he said, “it’s just been amazing… incredible. I’ve been very pleased with that.”
Firefighters meet three to four times a month for continual training, keeping everyone ready and prepared for whatever might arise. The chief tries to attend some of these meetings as well.
In addition to the volunteer hours they put in for training and for actual emergency response, the firefighters also make time for fun events with the public.
“We’re trying to get involved in community events and public functions,” because, as McDonough pointed out, “it’s all community services.”
The three stations have also come together to work on renovations and to ensure that each station has what they need. The Morrisburg station is expecting the delivery of a new heavy rescue truck by the end of this month. And, in 2012, the Iroquois station may just find itself with a new pumper rescue truck.
“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the guys. They are happy with the changes,” McDonough confirmed.
With that said, due to some retirements, the South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services is looking for some new recruits for the Williamsburg and the Morrisburg stations. Those interested can go to www.southdundas.com for more information. Without a computer? Call the township office for additional information at 613-535-2673.