The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association is welcoming significant investments from the provincial government, which include funds to enhance fireground safety and to expand access to behavioural health resources using IAFF programs.
On May 15, the Ontario Minister of Labour, Immigration and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton, announced $700,000 in funding for four fire fighter safety projects, including $367,105 for the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) to conduct IAFF Fireground Survival (FGS) Training in the province and an additional $65,099 to the OPFFA for IAFF Peer Support Training in support of behavioural health for fire fighters.
OPFFA President Greg Horton said he was thrilled with the announcement, noting that the funds will be used to purchase and deploy a custom-made Fireground Survival Training trailer and props that simulate various high-risk firefighting situations. The FGS training will occur across the province, led by newly certified trainers.
“Professional development and capacity building are core value propositions the OPFFA offers members,” Horton said. “The association plays a unique role in assessing the continuing education needs of members and delivering programs to meet those needs. While there is ample training on how to put out a fire and save lives, there hasn’t been adequate training on fire fighter survival.”
Both IAFF FGS training and Peer Support training courses will be offered in October at the OPFFA’s DeFazio Taylor Health and Safety Labour seminar in Toronto, which has become the largest event of its kind in Canada.
In addition to funds for the OPFFA projects, the Ontario Government announced that the City of Mississauga will receive $101,099 for IAFF FGS training, and the Town of Georgina will receive $176,000 for a fire service professional development project. The OPFFA applied for a total of $1.6 million for fire fighter safety projects, with the possibility of additional funding allocations in 2024 and 2025.
General President Edward Kelly welcomed the announcement.
“The IAFF is committed to making our dangerous job as safe as it can be,” he said. “These IAFF-developed programs will surely advance fire fighter safety throughout Ontario, and the province’s support speaks to our success as a leading authority in these areas.”
IAFF 13th District Vice President Fred LeBlanc thanked Premier Doug Ford and Minister McNaughton for turning to the IAFF programs to improve fire fighters’ physical safety and mental health. “These programs will help save the lives of fire fighters by providing the skills needed to self-rescue should they become trapped at an emergency scene, and to better deal with the mental trauma often resulting from the job.”
In March, the Ontario Government announced an expansion of the province’s presumptive regime for fire fighters, adding thyroid and pancreatic cancer coverage and bringing the total number of cancers presumed occupational for the purpose of worker’s compensation benefits to 19.
The OPFFA represents 12,161 members in 82 locals across Ontario.