MORRISBURG – New firefighter certification rules to raise safety standards across the province have been years in the making and are going to become a reality in the years to come.
South Dundas fire chief, director of South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services Cameron Morehouse presented council with a report earlier this month outlining the new certification and its potential financial implications.
Three different coroner’s inquests more than 10 years ago all recommended certification training for all fire personnel.
The Fire Fighters Association of Ontario supports a minimum standard for fire service.
“Right now, the level of service varies across the province,” said Morehouse in his report to council.
In late January the province announced its plan for certification. The public consultation phase for the new draft regulation is open for comment until the end of February.
Under the new regulation all current firefighters in Ontario will need to be certified by July 1, 2026.
“Currently we have 22 firefighters and six officers who would need to be certified before July 1, 2026, at an estimated cost of $200,000,” said Morehouse.
He added that they are looking at ways to bring training in-house both to ensure local firefighters meet the proposed regulations and for a way to realize a potential cost savings.
Morehouse said that all three political parties support the new mandate because it will save lives. “This is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and we need to protect our employees,” he added.
“They are making it hard to be a rural municipality,” said South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan. “I’m hoping this doesn’t discourage people from joining our fire service.”
South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds shared Mellan’s concern. “It seems like it will be a lot of work for members of our community to be part of our firefighting crew. I hope this doesn’t discourage them.”
“We as a council always support training,” he added.
Council and firefighters were scheduled to attend a February 19 educational session at the Iroquois Civic Centre to learn about and discuss the new certification regulation.
Twenty-seven of South Dundas’ 63 firefighters attended the meeting, as did four of five council members and a representative (Scott Hayes) from the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office.
“Everyone has concerns,” Morehouse told The Leader after the meeting.
The full regulation will not be known for a couple of months, but no matter how it ends up, Morehouse said that they all know it’s going to happen and it has to work for everyone including small and large municipalities.
By July 1, 2026 certification will be required and a lot of the firefighters here who are not yet grandfathered or certified had questions about how that would affect them directly.
South Dundas’ current force has 19 firefighters who are considered certified through grandfathering, three who are certified and six who are in the certification process with completion expected this summer.
Morehouse said that every fire chief in the province is concerned about how this new regulation will affect recruitment and retention of firefighters. “We’re going to have to spend a lot of money to get people up to speed,” he said. “Funding and recruiting are the two biggest issues I see. No one likes change, but we have four years to get this done. After that this will be the new normal.”