Fire Department seeks chief, direction, stability
The Pontiac Fire department, which serves Luskville, Quyon and Breckenridge, finds itself without a fire chief as of February 28, 2011.
Long time fire chief Tom Howard resigned his position at the last council meeting and neither the names of his replacement or the interim chief were available at press time.
Volunteer fire fighter Kevin Mansey considers the loss of Howard and the question of his replacement a very serious sign for the department, which has struggled with low numbers, internal strife and difficulties with the council for years.
“We’ve been told that council doesn’t want “rush things” in choosing a replacement, but it’s very hard for the department to function without a leader that we know and trust. We need the training and practise that gives us the confidence to trust our lives to each other. I won’t go into a burning building if I don’t believe that the guys out there have my back.”
Department captains Mario Allen, Serge Laforest and Chris Davis also report needing new equipment as large as cube vans to items as simple and vital as safety flares to direct traffic around accident sites. The difficulty in attracting new recruits who must wait for the training they require to actually attend fires is now exacerbated by this new need for experienced leadership.
Council has begun to discuss the description of duties for the position, says Pontiac’s mayor Eddie McCann, and they will proceed carefully to ensure a proper selection. “There have been concerns about council's commitment to the fire department due to budget restrictions, but council has budgeted basically the same amount for 2011 as in 2010,” reported McCann. “I believe the fire fighters realize that the council wants them to be well trained, well equipped and safe while fighting fires. We will insist on procedures related to purchasing and training that other departments are required to follow but we are absolutely committed to supporting our fire department. I believe we spend the highest percentage of our municipal budget on fire protection of any rural municipality in either the MRC des Collines or the MRC Pontiac and we have also committed to fund necessary / emergency purchases if they occur.”
Howard, currently out of the country, has decided to stay on as a volunteer fire fighter for the sake of the unit’s stability. Mansey reports that he chose to stay in order that other fire fighters would not resign in a sign of sympathy for him.