Sad farewell to a fallen firefighter

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Montreal firefighter Thierry Godfrind who fell in the line of duty last Friday

A civic funeral will be held today at the Notre-Dame Basilica for a Montreal firefigher who died last week after he was struck by a fire truck.  Thierry Godfrind, 39, died Friday while responding to a call in the St-Laurent borough.  At the time, firefighters were responding to a call at a residential building.

Condolences may be sent via email to

Godfrind is the first firefighter to die on the job in Montreal since 2006.

Being a firefighter is far from an easy job.  The training in arduous and the risks are great.  Each call brings a new challenge, a new risk.  Montreal firefighters are at the service of all residents of the City of Montreal and the suburban municipalities, such as Cote Saint-Luc as well as all who work and visit the Montreal Agglomeration. Each of them serves with compassion and devotion and for that they have my appreciation and respect.

I wish to publicly express my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Thierry Godfrind.  A loss like this affects our community and my constituents share in the grief and sadness.

Our own local emergency responders including our Emergency Medical Services volunteers, volunteer Citizens on Patrol and Public Security agents work side by side with the Montreal firefighters from Station 78 on Cote Saint-Luc Road and other stations.  As such they too share in the pain at the loss of a fellow emergency responder. I am proud that these local volunteers and professionals will attend the civic funeral today under the leadership of Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson and Chief Jerome Pontbriand representing the City of Cote Saint-Luc.

Firefighters ordered to help with heat measures

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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

CBC News

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.

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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.

Op-ed submission to The Gazette re: Montreal Firefighters Association and CSL EMS

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Op-ed submission to The Gazette

November 29, 2007

By Anthony Housefather and Glenn J. Nashen

In The Gazette of November 28, 2007, the Montreal Firefighters Association published an open letter to Russell Copeman, MNA, in which it claimed that Côte Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services (EMS) first responders have “much slower response times than Montreal firefighters.” It went on to urge Mr. Copeman to consult the official figures from Urgences-santé.

The City of Côte Saint-Luc has consulted those figures and they demonstrate that the claims of the Montreal Firefighters Association are completely false.

For the first eight periods of 2007-2008 as measured by Urgences-santé, the average response time of our superb EMS volunteers was 6 minutes and 18 seconds from the time that a call was received at the Urgences-santé communication centre until EMS arrived at the scene. In comparison, the average time for the Montreal firefighters was 8 minutes and 24 seconds. In short, on average the fire department was 2 minutes and 6 seconds slower than Cote Saint-Luc EMS.

The numbers are all the more staggering when one looks at the average response time for the firefighters in our neighbouring Town of Hampstead, where their average response time was 9 minutes. Meaning that they were 2 minutes and 42 seconds slower than Côte Saint-Luc EMS.

It is disappointing that the firefighters union is so nervous about having a service on the island whose numbers can be compared with theirs, that they choose to mislead the public as to the facts.

Côte Saint-Luc is proud to have had a superb EMS service that we have run for the last 27 years. While we are very happy that the firefighters will provide these services to the rest of the island of Montreal, we have no desire to see our excellent service that meets the needs of our municipality replaced by the firefighters. We are very thankful that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has recognized the value of our service and allowed us to retain it in the draft of Bill 22 she presented and we will continue to fight to retain our service.

While we have no desire to attack the fire department, we will respond to the distortions and misleading information that are coming continually from the Montreal Firefighters Association.

Anthony Housefather is mayor of Côte Saint-Luc. Glenn J. Nashen is the councillor responsible for public safety.

EMS blame game rages on

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EMS blame game rages on

By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban


Côte St. Luc mayoral candidates Robert Libman and Anthony Housefather accused each other of playing politics over the future of Côte St. Luc’s Emergency Medical Services.

Monday’s confrontation was prompted by a recent megacity council vote to give Montreal firefighters a monopoly on Priority 1 emergency calls.

The transition is expected to last three years, with EMS the last to be affected.

Libman insisted island-wide first response is a major advance, and advised Housefather and council candidate Glenn Nashen not to play politics by declaring EMS dead.

“This three-year period is a golden opportunity for us to negotiate the long-term continuance of our EMS,” Libman said, adding that EMS overcame past threats to its future.

But Housefather said there is no guarantee the transition period will take three years. He denounced Libman for supporting a 2003 collective agreement, and last year’s council vote on first response services.

“We didn’t say EMS was dead,” Housefather said, “but you have put it at risk and you should be ashamed that you’re using it as a political issue.”

Bossé, Housefather clash over EMS

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Bossé, Housefather clash over EMS
By Joel Goldenberg and Jason Magder, The Suburban

CôteSt.HampWest councillor Anthony Housefather and Montreal executive committee member Georges Bossé clashed over the ability of firefighters to respond to emergency calls as quickly as Côte St. Luc’s volunteer Emergency Medical Services.

During Friday’s council meeting, Bossé argued against CôteSt.HampWest councillor Dida Berku’s resolution that would have allowed EMS to continue to respond to Priority 1 calls

“They’re great people, they’re doing a great job,” Bossé told reporters, but went on to insist that EMS does not respond to 100 percent of calls locally passed to them by 911. “The firefighters [will have to guarantee 100 percent of calls] for Priority 1 service.”

Housefather disputed Bossé’s statements.

“We hit probably 95 percent of the calls,” Housefather said. “The fire department hits [a much lower percentage] of the calls than EMS. The reason EMS would not hit a call is because they’re out of the station on another call. If we get three calls, we have two trucks.

But Montreal fire chief Jean-Pierre Laporte, who oversees the first responder service, said it would be impossible for volunteers to respond to Priority 1 calls because the firefighters’ collective agreement with the city puts that responsibility squarely on firefighters. Laporte said the protocol can’t be restored to the way it was prior to the megacity, when the fire department in Côte St. Luc answered calls when EMS workers were attending to another emergency.

C.S.L. EMS wins stay

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C.S.L. EMS wins stay

By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban
Côte St. Luc’s volunteer Emergency Medical Services has received a three-year stay of execution as mayoral candidates Robert Libman and Anthony Housefather dicker over who is better positioned to ensure the survival of the 25-year-old institution past the deadline.

At a special megacity council meeting last Friday, councillors adopted a resolution giving Montreal firefighters the exclusive right to respond to Priority 1, or life-threatening, emergency calls. The island-wide first responder service will be fully implemented after a three-year transition period. Côte St. Luc’s Priority 1 service would be the last to be absorbed.

But the council invoked closure on CôteSt.HampWest councillor Dida Berku’s amendment to the resolution, which would have guaranteed that the Côte St. Luc EMS would always have the right to respond to Priority 1 calls. Council speaker Marcel Parent ruled that the amendment was inadmissible because it contradicted council’s vote last year to ratify a collective agreement giving firefighters the right to answer Priority 1 calls across the island.

Housefather, co-chairman of the borough’s emergency services committee, denounced the Tremblay team’s closure motion as undemocratic, but also said Libman helped doom Berku’s amendment by supporting last year’s collective agreement.

“The firefighters’ collective agreement that the executive committee ratified a year ago was a death knell for our EMS department,” Housefather said, adding that EMS will have a hard time recruiting new volunteers. “As mayor, or whatever I will be in the future, I’m going to have to go with my colleagues to the Quebec government and try our best to reverse this decision.”

But Libman said the three-year implementation period provides a window for negotiation, saying a Quebec government letter issued Friday said the Montreal government could allow a parallel service to exist if it meets the proper criteria.

“I’m confident we can seal a deal to make sure we can continue well beyond the three years,” he said.

Libman criticized Housefather and former Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen for being pessimistic about EMS’s future, and for saying recruitment might be threatened.

“EMS is very much alive and will be alive for years to come.”

Berku is less optimistic.

“We got a three-year extension, but there’s no guarantee that we can continue after the three years,” she said. “[The negotiations] are an opening.”

But EMS director Richard Edelstein said the organization has faced threats over its 25-year existence and survived.

“We have a big fight ahead of us,” he said. “It’ll be business as usual.”

Editorial – A measure of failure

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Editorial – A measure of failure
By Jim Duff, The Suburban

Priority 1: Most life-threatening injuries such as heart attack, respiratory failure. Under Urgence Santé guidelines, ambulances should arrive within five minutes.

Priority 2: Urgent but non-life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness. Ambulance delay: within 10 minutes.

Priority 3: Non-urgent calls of a serious nature, such as elderly persons requiring assistance. Ambulance transport as soon as it becomes available.
As The Suburban’s Jason Magder reports, it now appears certain that the Tremblay administration, the Montreal Fireman’s Brotherhood and the Charest government will reach an agreement this week on a deal that will see the installation of an island-wide first responder service to answer 911 medical emergencies.

The theory behind making firefighters first responder providers is solid. In many Quebec communities, volunteer and paid-per-call firefighters arrive at medical emergencies in less than nine minutes, usually well ahead of ambulance co-ops that can take half an hour or more. As The Suburban was first to report Nov. 24, ambulance response times in many parts of Montreal Island are dangerously slow and getting slower; first responder services will bridge the gap between that first 911 call and the arrival of Urgences Santé.

But let’s not confuse the system being agreed to by the megacity, the firefighters’ union and the provincial government with perfection. First, the firefighters will only roll on Priority 1 calls. As the Urgences Santé code above illustrates, Priority 1 calls account for a fraction of all medical emergencies. Will everyone else lie there until Urgences Santé techs arrive? Apparently.

Ever since the forced mergers, we have warned of the dangers of leaving emergency medical service decisions to central governments. Côte St. Luc’s EMS volunteers are everything a true first-responder service should be and the only reason Côte St. Luc’s EMS is not the gold standard for the entire island is due to the failure of the Tremblay administration to cut a better deal with the union and the province.

One could have predicted that the firefighters’ union would hold out for the best deal possible, considering their history of letting Montreal burn. We could also have expected Quebec to drag its heels when it comes to getting people to hospital faster and in better shape, since slow ambulances are an efficient method of rationing healthcare. Every patient dead on arrival at hospital saves the province thousands, so why rush? No wonder the Liberal government, and the Parti Québécois government before it, have no interest in paying paramedics to save lives.

What we can’t stomach is how the megacity has squandered the brilliant first-responder legacy it inherited from the suburbs. Instead of making their example the gold standard for the island, this administration has laboured to ensure that nothing is left to highlight the mediocrity of the common denominator. Anyone looking for a measure of the failure of the megacity need look no further.

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