Lambton College could fill firefighter training void

Lambton College students at the school's fire school facility. March 20, 2019 (Photo by Colin Gowdy, BlackburnNews)

Talks are underway with Lambton College to offer training to Sarnia-Lambton firefighters.

It was announced in January the Ontario Fire College (OFC) campus in Gravenhurst would close permanently March 31, 2021, and firefighter training would be expanded across the province.

Sarnia Fire and Rescue Services (SFRS) Chief Bryan Van Gaver said before the pandemic, city fire personnel were sent to the fire college to take nearly 30 courses a year between 2017 and 2019.

He said 18 courses were cancelled last March due to COVID-19.

“Our fire prevention people took code violation, inspections, and fines (courses),” said Van Gaver. “A big one for us was the senior officer development courses, both for fire prevention and suppression officers.”

Van Gaver said there isn’t a regional training centre in our area right now, but it’s being explored, and the Lambton College Fire School is a consideration.

“There’s an appetite with all of the Lambton County fire chiefs to pursue this, as well as interest from Lambton College, so those talks are ongoing and hopefully we can come up with a solution.”

Until then, Van Gaver said they’ll continue to take a mixture of online courses and what’s being offered at the regional training centre in Grimsby — but it comes with added costs.

“Concerns we have are the courses at the Ontario Fire College were subsidized to $65 per course, when actual costs were about $1300, and that also included food and lodging, so now courses at the regional training centres or online can be upwards of $400, plus the addition of the $65 to the fire marshal.”

Van Gaver is hoping the province will take savings from closing the OFC and disperse it to municipalities to help offset the costs.