"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Wednesday 10 April 2013

A tragedy in the community

A family of  four adults died in a  house fire in East  Gwullimbury. The community was in shock.
Four members of a family died in a fire.
First  we learned response time was 12 minutes.
That's twice what it should be.
We awaited more information.
Aurora -Newmarket operate joint  fire protection. Both municipalities provide protection to neighboring areas by contract.
Mutual aid is standard practice .
A Newmarket firehall  was  within  five minute of the fire.
Why were they  not there?
Councillors normally receive an e-mail  with details within hours of  a  fire attended.
None was received.
We waited for the Fire Marshall to report. No reference was made to response time.
A Fire Marshall seldom misses an opportunity to point to the need for full time fire
It was odd.
The professional fire fighters association (union) made a public statement.
They  found the fire marshall's report incomplete.
Response time was not cited.
But still no reference was made to why Newmarket's fulltime service was not in attendance.
I heard informally, they did not receive  the call.
911 service is shared.
If the call was not received, that's a concern for all of us.
At last night's Council meeting, under new business, I sought
Another odd thing happened.
Councillor Gallo, chairman of joint fire committee indicated he had received
an e-mail . They didn't get the call, he said quietly to myself.
It was the only explanation.
Yet the Mayor would not allow the discussion.
Newmarket's contract with East Gwillimbury is not our business
 he  said.
I  sought an answer from the town solicitor .
"Who orders an inquest" I asked.
The Mayor refused to direct the question.
I insisted.
The  solicitor responded the  Fire Marshall is responsible .
At a recent meeting ,a recommendation from the Joint Fire Committee to request the Region of York to study the  feasibility of providing  Region-wide fire protection service was  aproved by Council.
Aurora -Newmarket have full time fire protection.
Our  towns have no need of a region-wide service.
It's odd the Mayor would  disallow a question about a contract between Newmarket and East Gwillimbury, yet days before, the question of region-wide fire services  which  would impact only rural municipalies  was  allowed .
The request  came around the time of four deaths in East Gwillimbury. 
I have since learned some particulars of the fire.
 I do not suggest culpability.
Only a firefighter truly appreciates the imperative for speed.
A minute or less can be the difference between  life and  death,
Yet , there was  failure.
 I suspect the  emergency communication system.
The  system is shared. We all need to know what happened .
I do not understand the apparent effort to  keep the facts from becoming public.
I do  not understand the inconsistency of his judgement.
What I do not understand is the obvious attempt to keep it a secret.


Anonymous said...

I am just guessing here. But if there is a chance that a serious human error was involved, there might be charges laid. In that case, all those involved will be very careful about sharing information. Not necessarily a cover-up but more waiting to see how it plays out.
On the same general topic, I was told at the Newmarket station that there were staff on duty in the stations to take calls ' during business hours '. After that, it is supposed to be fully automated.
I sure hope it wasn't a soft-ware failure.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor is correct in stating we have no business in a contract between EG and Newmarket. However, if the CYFS is jointly owned by Newmarket and Aurora, we have business in a contract between EG and CYFS.

Having said that, it is my understanding that EG would have asked for assistance. They arrived late - becaue they are volunteers and they did not ask for help.

You can't fault the communication system if the call was not made.

I think that you are looking for a "smoking gun" (pardon the pun) but there were so many factors in play. There is not one there.

1. smoke detector did not work
2. volunteer-based FD (who uses that any more?)
3. no call for assitance

When CYFS was created, there was a perception that a shared service would be able to better serve the towns. Do you think a regional service can do the same? I think it can. Seems to work for Police.

Anonymous said...

Given how important fire services are & how much every community contributes towards them, is it too much to expect that ' business hours ' would apply 24/7 ?

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this applies to the volunteer services in East Gwillimbury, but other areas insist their firefighters go to the station first before heading to a call. That would be one small reason to add to the tragedy.