News Local

Deep River partners with CNL's Fire Operations

By Celina Ip

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and the Town of Deep River signed an interim fire services agreement that will see CNL's Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) Fire Operations support the town's fire department from Dec. 4 to June 30, 2018. Pictured in back (from left) are CRL Fire Operations deputy fire chief Gerry Johnston, CRL Fire Operations fire chief Gary McRae, CRL Fire Operations deputy fire chief Gary Pardy and Deep River Fire Department deputy fire chief Robert Labre. Pictured in front (from left) are AECL President and CEO Richard Sexton, Deep River Mayor Joan Lougheed and CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinkski.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and the Town of Deep River signed an interim fire services agreement that will see CNL's Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) Fire Operations support the town's fire department from Dec. 4 to June 30, 2018. Pictured in back (from left) are CRL Fire Operations deputy fire chief Gerry Johnston, CRL Fire Operations fire chief Gary McRae, CRL Fire Operations deputy fire chief Gary Pardy and Deep River Fire Department deputy fire chief Robert Labre. Pictured in front (from left) are AECL President and CEO Richard Sexton, Deep River Mayor Joan Lougheed and CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinkski.

 DEEP RIVER – Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and the Town of Deep River have signed an interim agreement that will see CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories (CRL) Fire Operations provide training, organization and management of the town’s fire services.

With a population of 4,000, Deep River is the smallest community in Ontario with full-time firefighters, at a cost of $1.5 million per year.

This past July, the crew of nine was reduced after two firefighters retired. Contract workers were added to help, but when their agreements weren't renewed and two others took extended sick leave, the station crew dwindled to four.

Discussions on how to help the struggling fire department have been ongoing for years – regarding a need for more staff and better training – with growing concerns following the recent staffing shortages.

Monday morning, during a special meeting at the Town’s council chambers, Deep River Mayor Joan Lougheed met with CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski and AECL CEO and President Richard Sexton to officially sign the documents and begin the new partnership.

“I would say this is a monumental day for the Town if Deep River as this has been 30-plus years of challenges with the current fire services model and many studies and reviews on how to improve this,” said Richard McGee, chief administrative officer for the Town of Deep River. “Mayor Lougheed, Reeve Glenn Doncaster and councillors of the Town of Deep River should be commended along with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' executive for their work in partnering to create a long-term solution for the residents of Deep River.”

From Dec. 4 until June 30, the CRL Fire Operations will provide a fire chief and a deputy fire chief to the Deep River Fire Department, with the costs being borne by the town.

According to Lougheed, the agreement serves as the first building block that will allow for the development of a stronger, long-term partnership for all parties involved.

“This interim agreement with CNL provides our residents, businesses and employees with confidence that Council remains focused on the provisions of an effective fire service,” said Lougheed. “CNL has recognized our immediate need for fire service and the need to implement positions of fire chief and deputy fire chief. So this interim agreement actually puts in place a response to that immediate need and it also puts in place a commitment to working over the next few months to a long-term service agreement. It's been a lot of work but everyone has really committed to understanding the importance of talking about the safety of the people who live here, the people who work here and the fire fighters who take on the responsibility of fire protection service in Deep River.”

After more than 30 years of searching for solutions, Lougheed shared her optimistic outlook that the agreement will resolve those challenges and allow the Town to improve upon its fire services and move towards a stronger, better and safer future.

“The Town of Deep River will continue to move forward in a strategic but determined manner towards enhanced fire services; granting an increased level of fire protection and beginning to address decades-old challenges in a cost-effective manner,” said Lougheed. “Our first priority is to ensure the safety of residents, businesses and employees of Deep River. I want to thank CNL President Mark Lesinski and his team who made this partnership possible through their commitment and dedication.”

During the time of this interim agreement, both parties will work collaboratively to negotiate a comprehensive, long-term Fire Protection Services Agreement (FPSA) for the Town of Deep River.

“CNL is pleased to work with the Town of Deep River through the implementation of this interim agreement. As CNL places health and safety as a high priority in our operations, so too does the municipality, as is evident in its efforts to provide continuing fire services for its residents,” said CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski. “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.”

From now until June 2018, the implementation of the agreement will allow CRL Fire Operations and the Town of Deep River to work together to help improve fire services and public safety within the municipality. The new fire chief and deputy chief will be stationed at the Deep River Fire Department where they will be providing training and support to staff, along with administrative support and fire prevention education to the public.

“It's all about the public safety and making sure the residents of Deep River have the fire protection they need to ensure their safety and improve the response by the department,” said CRL Fire Operations Chief Gary McRae.

cip@postmedia.com