Firefighters ordered to help with heat measures
Essential Services Council says firefighters must check on vulnerable residents
Last Updated: Thursday, July 8, 2010 | 7:17 PM
As part of the City of Montreal’s response to the current heat wave, firefighters and police officers have been asked to check on potentially vulnerable residents. (CBC)
Quebec’s Essential Services Council has ordered Montreal firefighters to carry out door-to door-visits during the current heat wave to check on vulnerable people.
The visits were among the measures the city announced Wednesday to prevent deaths related to the extreme heat. The program is targeted at neighbourhoods and buildings where public health officials believe people are most vulnerable to the high heat.
But the firefighters’ union said some of its members refused to perform the checks because of the heat.
The dispute was brought before the Essential Services Council on Thursday, the third straight day of record-breaking temperatures. At Montreal’s Trudeau airport, the temperature reached 34 C, topping the record of 33 C set in 2008.
The Montreal Firefighters Association argued that firefighters are not obliged to perform prevention activities in temperatures below 0 C and above 30 C.
The Essential Services Council sided with the city.
“The visits are intervention measures and not uniquely prevention measures as the association claims.”
The ruling is good news for those affected by the stifling heat, said City of Montreal lawyer Frédéric Henri.
“It’s binding and they have to follow the rules as of today, so we’re happy with that,” Henri said. “We’re only going to hope that all firefighters will help us on this very special task at serving the population on these special weather conditions.”
Fire department officials said they also agreed with the ruling.
“These are emergency measures and it is a question of saving lives,” said Jean Barteleau, the fire department’s assistant director. “Firefighters’ mission is to save lives.”
Union president Perry Bisson denied the dispute was related to the firefighters’ contract negotiations with the city. He said it was simply a matter of respecting the collective agreement.
In my opinion: Such dangerous actions were never part of our tradition when the Fire Department was managed by the City of Cote Saint-Luc. Since the demergers, when the Fire Department was centralized and handed over to the Montreal Fire Department, suburbs have lost the close links and relationship with its firefighters and fire prevention inspections have tapered off to barely a trickle. Another glaring example of how smaller cities can manage its services far better than large mega cities.