Whitewater Region – Whitewater Region fire department has received approval from council to create a fire training site on six acres of land at the corner of Kohlsmith Road and Blind Line.
There is mandatory fire training for firefighters and with the closure of the Gravenhurst fire college, “training has been pushed to the forefront for a lot of fire departments,” Chief Jonathan McLaren told council at its August 3 meeting. “It’s been pointed out we need to establish some type of area where we can train.”
In a report to council, he said the department is currently using very cost-effective learning contracts to certify firefighters and officers, but there remains a need to conduct regular fire department maintenance training as well as firefighter certification training at this site.
Reviewing various sites throughout the township, Chief McLaren said this is the best site.
“We needed a site where we’re not at risk of damaging our equipment, residential buildings, township buildings and not disrupting our neighbours,” he said.
It’s property already owned by the township and it cannot be developed as it’s a buffer zone for the landfill site on Kohlsmith Road, he explained.
The property is central to the municipality and is accessible from Kohlsmith Road and Blind Line since work was done to open the road allowance, the chief added, noting the material for Blind Line came from the rehabilitation of Cameron Street.
In the future it’s hoped there will be a structure made of sea containers, “which are relatively cheap, very durable and accessible,” he said.
He expects this to be a phased-in project.
“Hopefully over the next year we can purchase three sea containers and then a roof structure in the future and possibly a water source (such as) a cistern,” the chief said.
Councillor Dave Mackay was pleased to hear there’s the possibility of other municipal fire departments using this training site as well.
“We’re in preliminary talks with neighbouring departments about the use of the facility,” Chief McLaren said. “It’s difficult to iron out a firm agreement until things are in place.
“The intent is to share, in some fashion, with the neighbouring communities.”
Councillor Charlene Jackson noted many people have seen the improvements to the Blind Line and questioned if there would be more improvements in the area.
Chief McLaren said there will be more work done on the actual site as the topsoil will be stripped off and a pad of aggregate laid.
“We’re working with the building department to determine what foundation, or the pad, for the sea containers, will have to be,” he said. “There will be some work with drainage to make sure there is no flooding issues or anything like that.
“We’re using water, so there will be some runoff,” he continued. “We want to make sure that the land is appropriately sloped towards the ditches.”
When asked if the property would be used for landfill purposes, Public Works Manager Lane Cleroux said it was purchased strictly as a buffer zone.
Councilorl Daryl McLaughlin questioned if there are building restrictions on the property, and was pleased to hear the building and planning departments have been engaged in discussions to ensure there are no problems.
Councillor Neil Nicholson said it’s a great proposal, noting there is momentum in the fire department and this is something that should be encouraged.
“The partnerships will come, I believe, and there will be other investments and opportunities for us to build on the successes we can do in house with a little bit of money here and there,” he said.
Chief McLaren agreed there is momentum and is hopeful it will continue with this investment in building and a structure where they can do some of the things they’re struggling to do now.
Just prior to a vote being taken, Coun. Jackson, who was laughing, said, “Years ago, when Prime Minister Jean Chretien came up to celebrate the 25th anniversary at Wilderness Tours and went rafting and then to men’s night (at the Oaks of Cobden), that’s where he changed into his golf clothes.”
Mayor Mike Moore quipped, “We need to put up a sign there,” bringing more laughter from council members.
Other Department News
In other fire department news, council approved the purchase of 15 low pressure nozzles from AJ Stone at a cost of just over $16,000.
The automatic aid and extrication agreements with the Township of Admaston/Bromley were also approved through to December 31, 2026.
These are two separate agreements that have served both departments, residents, businesses and those travelling through the coverage area well, Chief McLaren noted in his report to council.
The fees for fire suppression remain at $7,000 annually while the annual administrative fee for heavy rescue/auto extrication is $1,000 for response, and $519 per hour per apparatus, which follows the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario’s rate, he said.
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader