Deep River hands control of fire service to nuclear lab
Interim solution in place until town council decides on long-term fire plan
The corporation running the Chalk River Laboratories nuclear facility will take over fire services for the town of Deep River, Ont., after financial problems left the department short-staffed and under-resourced.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories will be in charge of training, organizing and managing Deep River's fire service until July 2018. The labs are included within the town's municipal boundaries.
The agreement comes after both the fire service and town council of Deep River faced criticism over dwindling staff and inadequate resources.
CNL will provide a chief and deputy chief to oversee Deep River's remaining staff of five firefighters, who were leaderless after Chief Rob Shaw resigned in September.
"The relationship with CNL has been growing and the partnership developing," Mayor Joan Lougheed told CBC News. "We really had limited options on how we can provide the fire service that's effective."
Over the past year, the staff of nine full-time employees was reduced to five as firefighters retired, took sick leave or didn't have their contracts extended.
Deep River's fire service is stuck in limbo while town council decides whether to act on an agreement to let them reduce their staff through attrition and implement a volunteer department, or go with a different plan completely.
Long-term solution in the works
Lougheed said there is a slim possibility the contract with CNL may need to be extended past June, but added she's "hoping we have a long-term service agreement in place long before that time."
This approach will not compromise the Chalk River Laboratories' site safety, and will provide the residents of Deep River with short-term assistance…- Mark Lesinski , CEO, CNL
The town will shoulder the whole cost of the aid from CNL. Lougheed said the plan is to pull the funds out of the existing $1.5-million fire budget, and re-evalutate should other expenses arise.
"This approach will not compromise the Chalk River Laboratories' site safety, and will provide the residents of Deep River with short-term assistance while a permanent municipal fire services solution is determined," said Mark Lesinski, CEO of CNL.
During the interim agreement, both parties will collaborate on a "long-term" fire protection plan for Deep River.
Ontario's fire marshal asked for that plan when he floated the idea of removing the town from a mutual aid agreement with neighbouring communities.
The new plan will focus on how to protect residents while saving money and keeping firefighters happy, Lougheed said. Town council will rely on the feedback of the interim chief and deputy chief to map out the community's needs.
"All partners are at the table with a commitment to bring the service agreement forward," she said.
Planning sessions are already underway.