Missing Highway 17 extrication "dangerous": Sweet
Mayor Bob Sweet is renewing calls for the County of Renfrew and the province to hammer out a solution that will address the lack of heavy vehicle extrication on Highway 17 in the Township of Head, Clara and Maria.
Since a mutual aid agreement between Head, Clara and Maria, which has no fire department, and neighbouring Laurentian Hills and Deep River dissolved in October, a 30-kilometre stretch has no extrication coverage.
“It's a very dangerous situation,” Sweet said Monday reacting to a story in the Daily Observer over the weekend that recounted how Laurentian Hills firefighters were called back from an extrication call issued on Jan. 15.
On that day, emergency responders were called to a single motor vehicle collision near Stonecliffe. While County of Renfrew Paramedics and the Ontario Provincial Police responded, the firefighters heading to the scene were ordered back to the station. Four passengers in the car were injured with two going to hospital.
The issue first became public after Petawawa fire chief Steve Knott reported the lapse of the agreement to council last fall. As the paramedics are a county asset, Sweet said the upper tier needs to pursue a course of action that will resolve this dilemma.
“I'm not pointing fingers but I am concerned about the well-being of people who travel from here to North Bay,” he said. “What if paramedics get on a scene and can't do anything more than hold someone's hand. There is an expectation that there is a level of protection and support not only for those who are driving but those who are offering emergency care.”
Councillor Treena Lemay, who has been an outspoken advocate for improving safety on Highway 17, was surprised that no resolution has come forth some four months after the mutual aid agreement ended leading to this vulnerable situation for motorists. She worries about how paramedics and police will have to deal with a life and death situation, such as a person trapped in a car wreck needing extrication in order to make it to the hospital in a critically limited amount of time.
“If they can't open the door, somebody dies in the ditch,” she said. “This is just dreadful.”
She called for the Ministry of Transportation to step in and work with the county to ensure this stretch of highway is covered by fire services, however, she said this needs to be done quickly.
“This is really unacceptable but who owns the problem,” she said.