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Dunce Convention Meets Regularly in Ramara, Ontario.

An Opinionated Report on Recent Activities in Ramara Township

Monday July 23

The Ramara Township (Ontario) Council met tonight and voted to end the practice of firefighters assisting with traffic control and using fire trucks as blockers at crash scenes.  The Orillia Packet & Times reported:

Ramara councillors voting to discontinue allowing blockers, argued the practice puts firefighters at risk and could result in significant damage to expensive fire vehicles.

"Our firefighters are not trained to direct traffic," said Deputy Mayor Basil Clarke. "They are there to save lives. That’s exactly what they should be doing and that's all they should be doing. Our firefighters should not be directing traffic. If the OPP needs manpower for that, there are about 90 of them who work in that building in Orillia and I’m sure they can find the people they need there." (The OPP is the police department. Dunce Clarke believes that there are 90 of them sitting around the station waiting for something to happen….Ed.)

Clarke also said fire trucks are "too expensive" to be placed on the highway as blocker vehicles.

Ramara Township Council
front row l. – Mayor Bill Duffy; r. – Deputy Mayor Basil Clarke

Council rejected a motion to defer the decision to a future general committee meeting for further discussion and voted instead to "advise the OPP that the township will not remain at any accident scene to direct traffic or provide blocker vehicles after our fire and rescue services responsibilities are complete."

Five Hours Later, 2:30 am Tuesday July 24

Northumberland Today reports from Ramara Township:

Firefighters say a fire truck positioned to shield workers at an accident scene on Highway 401 possibly saved numerous lives early Tuesday morning.

A fully loaded transport truck slammed into the side of the parked Port Hope fire truck, with its emergency lights activated, in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 approximately one kilometre east of the Burnham Street off-ramp around 2:30 a.m.

"(The fire truck) saved a lot of lives tonight," Port Hope Fire Department Captain Bob Cranley said. The tanker fire truck was from the Welcome fire hall and was being used as a blocker on the highway while a towing company removed a vehicle from the ditch.

"A blocker is used to protect the firefighters," Cranley said. "So if somebody is not paying attention (on the highway) they’ll hit the fire truck versus hitting the firefighters, police and paramedics who are working on scene. It was probably one of the most frightening things I’ve witnessed," he said. "Just the sound and then the aftermath; not knowing if the guys were okay."

The transport struck the fire truck on the passenger side, sheering off part of the side of the fire truck, including the front mirror. The transport continued down the highway a short distance with heavy damage to the driver’s side.

The driver of the transport, a 31-year-old Calgary man, is facing charges of impaired driving, operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit, possession of cocaine and dangerous driving.

Friday July 27

The Orillia Packet & Times continues:

Ramara Township’s decision to stop allowing fire trucks to be used as blocker vehicles at crash scenes could put emergency workers at risk, says the deputy fire chief of Cobourg.

"If somebody is going to say they are not going to allow blockers, I can’t support that decision because somebody is going to be killed," Jim Wheeler said in an interview with The Packet & Times Friday. "That’s what would have happened at our scene Monday night. We were very close to that, if it wasn’t for the blocker truck. You can’t put emergency personnel on the highway without a blocker."

It's a directive that isn't sitting well with the township's fire department.  "This is a council decision and we are going to follow through with it," said fire administrator Tony Stong. "That's their authority to decide what level of service we are going to provide. I don't know that it's the best practice though."  Stong clarified that the "paramount" role of firefighters at a crash scene is to "ensure the safety of all," including victims, members of the public and emergency workers. He confirmed fire vehicles often act as blockers.

"The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires blockers to have a gross vehicle weight of 6,800 kilograms or greater. Our pumpers and tankers fulfil those requirements," Stong said.

Fire departments "have authority" to block traffic under the provincial Highway Traffic Act.

Will they or won't they?  We're all watching now.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • JStrunk866

    We all should have respect for the law and the legislative group with authority over our departments that make them.  That said, I’d rather ask for forgiveness and be judged by 12 than carried by 6, if you catch my drift.  You can tell me what to do, but in the end I’m making the call about my safety and that of my company.  Sorry Councilor. 

  • Dal90

    Any bets that the esteemed councilor’s day job is as a third-rate attorney?

    As I’ve likely mentioned here before, in my area each fire company is probably called out once every year or two strictly to assist the State Police with traffic.  

    That includes to the local Interstate where the SP will specifically ask for a Big Red Truck to act as a blocker for them, usually for otherwise “police only” incidents that are in the median or high-speed lane.  On extended incidents the FD will block until State DOT can deploy dump trucks in that role.

  • firehat

    I wonder if there isn’t more to this than we see here. One major fire department near me recently entered into an agreement with its city’s police department whereby the PD can call for a fire truck and the PD IC has sole authority to determine when that apparatus can return to service. As such they are cutting cops lose from traffic duties and tying up fire companies for hours while they do accident investigations. The comment from the councilman about the OPP having guys to do this stuff makes me wonder if maybe the OPP is taking advantage of the FD and thereby depleting city resources. 

    To me, blocking is extremely important for protecting the public and the firefighters. I just don’t see that we are there for blocking so much as we block because we are there for something else.