Bruce Montone

Two former firefighters get tour of Amherstburg fire hall

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It was a blast from the past for Leighton Buckner and Tom Dawson.

The two former firefighters received a tour of Amherstburg fire station #1 last Thursday morning, in a trip that was arranged by local resident and retired town administrator Tom Kilgallin. Dawson, a retired deputy chief from Kingsville, and Buckner, a retired district chief from Windsor, received the tour from Amherstburg Chief Bruce Montone and deputy chief Lee Tome.

“I love being here, it’s a nice town,” commented Dawson. “It’s good. I also get back to Kingsville once in a while.”

Estimating he has been retired six or seven years, Dawson said, “things have changed quite a bit.

“Equipment is a lot better than when I first started.”

Dawson spent 42 years with the Kingsville Fire Department but said there is a bond with firefighters regardless of municipality.

Two retired firefighters who now live at Seasons Amherstburg visited Amherstburg fire station #1 last Thursday. From left: retired Kingsville deputy chief Tom Dawson, deputy chief Lee Tome, retired Windsor district chief Leighton Buckner, former mayor Bill Gibb, Chief Bruce Montone, retired administrator Tom Kilgallin and assistant deputy chief Ron Meloche.

Two retired firefighters who now live at Seasons Amherstburg visited Amherstburg fire station #1 last Thursday. From left: retired Kingsville deputy chief Tom Dawson, deputy chief Lee Tome, retired Windsor district chief Leighton Buckner, former mayor Bill Gibb, Chief Bruce Montone, retired administrator Tom Kilgallin and assistant deputy chief Ron Meloche.

“We’re still all brothers,” he said. “When you start hearing the stories, it brings back a lot of memories.”

Buckner, known as “Buck” to his friends and colleagues, worked 34 years in Windsor between 1949-83. He said it is “really nice” to be in Amherstburg, noting that his son lived here and he used to visit.

“I said ‘I wouldn’t mind living here one day’,” said Buckner. “Here I am. I like it.”

The 92-year-old Buckner said he has seen big changes over the years as well, noting the equipment is more advanced compared to his era.

“We couldn’t afford the tires, I believe,” Buckner joked.

Buckner recalled a fire call where the truck driver had the gearshift break off the truck on the way causing alternative measures to be used just to respond to the call.

Proposed open burn bylaw to be discussed at public meetings

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council got a sneak peek at the proposed new open burn bylaw with the public to get their own look at it at three future public meetings.

At a special council meeting held Monday night, fire chief Bruce Montone made a presentation that he plans on also giving at the three future public meetings. Town council, after discussing procedural issues regarding tabling of the bylaw, did just that and will have its own debate following the three meetings.

Montone pointed out the current open air burning bylaw – Bylaw 1998-91 – restricts open burns to where farming is conducted or in established camping facilities with wood, sticks and brush the only things allowed to be burned. Land debris burning is confined to logs, stumps and limbs with setbacks being 250 feet from a public road or 500 feet from an occupied structure.

A best practices review for a revised open air bylaw saw the Amherstburg Fire Department model it after a Municipal Code of Practice for open air burning in Ontario, the Forest Fire Prevention Act and other municipalities in Essex County, Chatham-Kent, Ottawa, Hamilton and Brandon, Manitoba.

“All municipalities (in Essex County) except Amherstburg have permissible bylaws of varying degrees,” said Montone, adding Windsor uses the Ontario Fire Code as its guide.

Montone acknowledged that smoke is unhealthy and pollutes the air as well as having nuisance and environmental impacts. By updating and enforcing a new bylaw, he said it creates opportunities to educate the public.

Since February 2016, the Amherstburg Fire Department has had 54 open air complaint responses at a cost of $12,480 for the department’s response. Those complaints produced 19 invoices, Montone added, for a total of $6,975 in recoverable expenses.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the proposed new open air burning bylaw at a special meeting of council July 31.

Amherstburg fire chief Bruce Montone discusses the proposed new open air burning bylaw at a special meeting of council July 31.

Under a proposed new bylaw, an annual permit could be obtained by the resident with those people asked to call a number the day of a fire to ensure conditions are proper in which to have one. The restricted area would remain similar in some ways, with Montone proposing a 60-foot by 100-foot lot or smaller be restricted from having open burns due to difficulty in having ample space away from houses, sheds or other structures.

“This starting point for restricted areas is extremely similar to where the restrictions exist,” said Montone, as he showed town maps where built-up areas have restrictions.

The fire chief also explained what is defined as a cooking fire, noting it has to be on a device specifically designed for cooking with the fire to be extinguished once the food is cooked.

“Cooking fires are not ones where you put a marshmallow or a wiener on a stick,” said Montone.

Site visits would occur when warranted and Montone said complaints need to be called in if a person wants the fire department to act on them.

“We receive complaints from citizens or other agencies but we need to receive the complaints in order for us to act,” he said, with other agencies including police and town officials.

Fees for those found in non-compliance with the bylaw can range from $225 for a visit from a responding officer. Should the call require fewer than six firefighters, the fee would be $450 and if it is six or more, the fee increases to $900.

The restricted zones are depicted as they are currently and what they would be under the proposed new open air burning bylaw.

The restricted zones are depicted as they are currently and what they would be under the proposed new open air burning bylaw.

“Those fees are significant,” said Montone.

The public meetings will be Aug. 17 at the Libro Centre, Sept. 12 at fire station #2 and Sept. 26 at fire station #3. All meetings will be at 7 p.m.

There will also be a survey on the town’s website from Aug. 3-Sept. 27. (UPDATE – The link to the survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XVHHBTD).

“It’s going to be (the public’s) opportunity to tell us what they really think,” said Montone.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the town continues to review its bylaws and the issue arose due to that.

“It’s open for discussion,” he said.

DiCarlo believes the town has been open and transparent in the last few years and that is continuing by having the three meetings. He said he hopes the public utilizes the opportunities, adding he has already heard from people on both sides of the issue.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The locations of the Sept. 12 and Sept. 26 public meetings were listed incorrectly in the Aug. 2 print issue and were posted incorrectly on this website. They have now been corrected in the story above. The Sept. 12 public  meeting is at station #2 and the Sept. 26 meeting is at station #3. Apologies for this error.)

“Amherstburg Alert” to improve notification for residents

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

In the event of an emergency or even a community event, the town has entered into a partnership for improved notification.

The town is now working with Everbridge, described by the town as “the worldwide leader in unified critical communications,” to create “Amherstburg Alert.” That system will allow for quicker notification on emergencies through landline telephones and devices of residents’ choosing.

However, the town states it can be used for other alerts over and above emergencies such as road closures, water and utility maintenance and community events.

Amherstburg fire chief and community emergency management coordinator (CEMC) Bruce Montone said residents have flexibility on what notifications they receive and how they receive them. People can choose what types of notifications they want and the methods they are received and in what order. Should someone want notifications by phone call, text message, e-mail, fax or another method, Montone said the system can accommodate that and go in the order if the resident’s choosing.

“We’ve pre-loaded the system with the white and yellow pages,” said Montone, adding Essex Powerlines has also shared its database.

There are 13,000 phone numbers currently entered into the “Amherstburg Alert” system, but Montone said people are encouraged to visit www.amherstburg.ca/alert and register their cell phones, e-mail addresses, fax numbers and any other information they wish in order to get notifications.

The town will be divided into zones for those needing help getting registered for the “Amherstburg Alert” system. The dates are specified above for when residents can visit the Libro Centre. Help centre hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Those not requiring assistance can register at www.amherstburg.ca/alert.

The town will be divided into zones for those needing help getting registered for the “Amherstburg Alert” system. The dates are specified above for when residents can visit the Libro Centre. Help centre hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Those not requiring assistance can register at www.amherstburg.ca/alert.

Emergency notifications are the default setting, he said, but people can choose other types of notifications when they sign up.

There are also internal uses for the Everbridge software, including letting staff know whether to open the emergency operations centre or the ability to target specific streets or neighbourhoods with notifications.

“We can also look at how many people got the notifications,” said Montone.

Montone said if a notification was sent out to 1,000 people and 500 are known to have actually seen it, there are options to send the notification again to ensure people receive it.

People can register now, but those without Internet access or those needing assistance can go to the Libro Centre over four days in August. Dates are Aug. 8, Aug. 9, Aug. 11 and Aug. 14, depending on what zone a person lives in. The zones are based on the waste collection calendar, Montone said.

Registration for the help centre for “Amherstburg Alert “will open Aug. 8 for those found in the Tuesday area of town. Following Aug, 8 will be Aug. 9, Aug. 11 and Aug. 14. It will be open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each of those days at the Libro Centre. For questions regarding the help center, please call Fire Station 1 at 519-736-6500. Administration is open from 8:30 a.m.to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The information provided is protected, Montone added, and that people have their own passwords when they register that the user determines. He added the system will work best if people keep their information updated.

Everbridge has employed similar systems in Tecumseh, Leamington and Kingsville, Montone said, with LaSalle to join in the fall. The cost to register is free to the users, but costs the municipality $10,000. It is money Montone believes is well worth it.

“If there is any kind of emergency, communication is vital. This is a significant improvement to be able to communicate with the public,” he said. “We have a commitment to ensure public safety, community awareness and emergency response. To uphold this, when critical information and public service announcements are available, we need to reach our residents as quickly and reliably

as possible. The Everbridge emergency notification system allows Amherstburg to disseminate this information across all types of devices, ensuring residents have access to real-time public information when they need it the most.”

“A resilient, comprehensive critical communications system is an essential tool for towns that need to notify thousands of residents and businesses rapidly and efficiently,” said Jaime Ellertson, CEO of Everbridge in a press release. “Everbridge is proud to have been selected by Amherstburg as a critical component of its public safety and emergency response program.”

Council moving forward with open air burning bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A decision is still weeks away as to whether open air burns will be permitted in Amherstburg, but the town is moving forward in the process.

Town council authorized administration to move forward with an open air fire bylaw and permit process for council’s consideration at a later date with public consultation meetings to be set up to allow residents to speak to it.

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out he was the one who brought the issue forward, noting that some residents may want to have a bonfire with their children. He said he has heard a lot of comments and innuendo from residents but said he understands both sides of the argument including the argument against smoke and fumes.

“I’ve had blood clots in my lungs and I understand the health issues,” said Fryer. “I do understand the flipside too. It’s not something I thought of willy nilly.”

Fryer said the idea would be to call a hotline and see if conditions were right to have a fire, though added there is a difference between a fire in a rural area and a small bonfire in urban areas.

According to Fryer, about 70 per cent of people he has heard from are “excited” for the possibility of it being easier to have a bonfire while 30 per cent have health issues they are concerned with.

“I feel for them,” he said of the latter.

The bylaw will be “complicated” and will have to come back to council after a public consultation process, he added.

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In a report from fire chief Bruce Montone, he said “open air burning and campfires are currently taking place in all (urban, sub-urban and rural) areas of the Town of Amherstburg. The current situation where campfires are not permitted anywhere is resulting in illegal burns taking place in spring, summer and fall with no appropriate controls in place. Enforcement of the current bylaw is not manageable with current resources. Fire services is limited to responding to complaints with very little information often resulting in full station responses. In the past three years fire services has responded to 133 open burn calls at a cost to ratepayers of approximately $40,000.”

Montone added in his report that “the proposed by-law establishes a set of comprehensive maps that define the regulated areas for open air fires. The proposed harmonized by-law continues to permit open air fires where such burning can be carried out safely and provides for control over open air fires. The intent of existing regulations will be maintained within the proposed bylaw. To address changes in population density and fire safety conditions however, certain geographical areas will not be permitted to have open air fires.”

Montone said that a processing fee of $25 for an annual open air fire permit and $75 specific event open air fire permit respectively are proposed for the processing of the permits but told council those were suggestions based on information gathered from other Essex County municipalities. He said they are trying to “strike a balance” between customer service, recreation and public safety.

Councillor Joan Courtney said the intention was not for Amherstburg council to pass a new bylaw quickly and said she wants to hear from the public.

“I understand both sides,” said Courtney.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned no fines after responding to 133 calls. She added she is “adamantly opposed” to moving forward with the process, believing council should have just received Montone’s report and gone no further. There are many toxins that are emitted during such burns and people’s health could be negatively impacted.

“Council was very concerned about smoking and second hand smoke and eliminated all smoking near municipal buildings and parks,” she said, “yet we’re thinking of allowing open air burns?”

Pouget was particularly concerned about burns in urban areas, noting rural landowners have to have burns as part of their farming operations.

“They have a right to burn because it is part of their agricultural needs,” she said.

Montone told town council that all Essex County municipalities except Amherstburg currently have “permissive systems” with Fryer adding “we’re the only community in Essex County that doesn’t allow this.”

Council moved forward thanks to a 5-1 vote, with Pouget being the vote in opposition. Councillor Jason Lavigne was not in attendance.

Fryer hopes for fire pit bylaw to streamline process of backyard fires

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A member of town council has asked that the fire department comes back with a fire pit bylaw to streamline the process for people wishing to have backyard fires.

Councillor Rick Fryer made the motion to have fire chief Bruce Montone bring such a bylaw to town council, with the hope it could be done by the July 10 meeting.

“It was brought to my attention that other municipalities have a one-time fee and all you have to do is call a number and an automated message will tell you ‘yes, you can’ or ‘no, you can’t have a fire that night due to weather conditions’,” said Fryer.

Fryer said that would come with a “nominal fee” and would allow residents to have a bonfire in their backyards and “enjoy their summer” if they wish to have a fire with their friends and family.

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“Other municipalities do it,” said Fryer. “I don’t know that this was our intention when we said no open burns.”

Deputy fire chief Lee Tome said the current bylaw is “many years old and due for an update” but doubted the report could come back by July 10. Fryer said he spoke with Montone and said July 10 is possible.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she has a problem with open burns but Councillor Joan Courtney voiced her support of Fryer’s motion.

“This past Father’s Day, my little grandchildren asked ‘grandma, can we build a bonfire and roast marshmallows?” said Courtney.

Courtney was apprehensive as a councillor about doing that, quipping that she didn’t want to see a headline in the River Town Times saying “Councillor violates own bylaw.”

“I would be very happy if we do this,” Courtney said about implementing a new fire pit bylaw.

Councillor Leo Meloche said the bylaw has to have urban and rural components.

“The bylaw has to be cognizant of where I live. There are 500 acres of open area behind me,” the McGregor resident said.