• The Low Down

Chelsea Fire needs a ladder truck

The Editor,


As a former Chelsea firefighter, I concur with [Chelsea Fire Department] Chief Ethier’s statement that a new ladder would be an asset for Chelsea’s fire service (“Chelsea Fire eyes ladder truck,” May 12 edition of The Low Down).


Chelsea’s geography and some of its architecturally sophisticated homes present special challenges for our firefighters, especially during the winter months. I recall a chimney fire at a home on the western slope off the 105 that was, in my opinion, a safety hazard for the men and women who volunteer their services for the protection of their fellow citizens. The three-storey structure, with a steep multi-level metal roof, was challenging on several fronts. Our 40-foot ladders, stuck in knee-deep snow, could not reach the main roof, so multiple ladders had to be deployed on several levels, meaning more personnel on the slippery structure. Luckily the fire was extinguished with minimal property damage and no injuries, but I doubt that any firefighter on the roof that night had any doubts about the serious danger they were facing on that snowy night.


While the chief’s statements appear to have been walked back by Chelsea’s public affairs spokesperson, there should be no doubt that Chelsea needs a ladder truck for the safety of its citizens and its firefighters — before someone is seriously injured. Yes, we’re talking about a new net-$1 million expenditure plus training costs and perhaps even modifications to the existing firehall to accommodate the equipment.


While some of us may bemoan Chelsea’s Centre Village growth, change is inevitable and the need for a ladder truck becomes more critical as taller structures are built. This should amplify those voices who have called for a regional fire service, as was done for the police service in 1996, amalgamating the hodge-podge of policing services to a single regional police force.


Or perhaps we should look at consolidating all regional emergency services under one roof to reduce the administrative costs and concentrate the dollars on actual emergency services.


Sure, we can ask some other municipality’s fire department to send a ladder truck when we need one, but that will be hit and miss depending on what is going on in their own city. Councillors may cringe at a new request to fund a million-dollar “toy” for the fire department, but the reality is that none of us want to be sitting on council on the day that, heaven forbid, one of our firefighters is hurt or killed because our elected officials chose to prioritize other expenses.


Edmond Hetu

Hollow Glen, QC