Sudbury Fire Services needs higher level of hazmat training: report

Fire chief says level of hazmat training needs a boost, considering the number of industrial businesses in Greater Sudbury.

'I can't sit by and suggest we're at the right level for responding to risks,' says fire chief


Greater Sudbury has a higher concentration of industrial businesses than Ottawa and Toronto, but the city's fire services have a lower level of hazardous material (hazmat) training.

That's something that puts everyone at risk, according to the city's fire chief and a city report.

"At this time, I can't sit by and suggest that we're at the right level for responding to risks in our community," says Trevor Bain, the chief of fire and paramedic services. 

Local crews have 'awareness' hazmat training

The report, which is part of the fire and paramedic service's optimization project, reveals Sudbury has 733 industrial businesses, including mining corporations.

The combination of possible hazmat risks these businesses pose, and the large number of railways that transport hazardous materials, means there's a higher chance of hazmat emergencies local crews need to be prepared for.

But right now, Sudbury fire fighters only have what's called an "awareness level" of hazmat training,  the lowest level of training for emergency services. The other two levels are "operational" and "technical."

In situations such as a derailed train car leaking chemicals or a local businesses having a gas release, local crews can evacuate the community or ensure the surrounding environment is safe. But if anything else needs to be done — like helping clean up the area or investigating the cause — crews need to call in outside resources. 

Chief wants local, trained team

Bain describes the awareness level of training as a one-hour online course that all volunteer and career fire fighters have. He says Sudbury has the largest fire fighting crew in the northeast, so the city should be able to handle its own emergencies independently. That's why he'd like to create a designated hazardous material response team with the operational and technical training levels.

Bain says this issue will be mentioned in the optimization report, set to be published online on March 13.