Two district First Nations soon will be able to better serve their residents in the event of a fire-related emergency.
The Hamilton Fire Department recently received approval to donate two surplus fire trucks to Couchiching and Nigigoonsiminikaaning (Red Gut).
Each of the reserves will receive one 1997 Freightliner, featuring tanks with a capacity of more than 5,000 litres.
The donations came after Hamilton's Fire Department was made aware of an investigation by Ontario's chief coroner into the nearly 60 people killed from residential fires in First Nations' communities over the past decade.
The federal government's First Nations Fire Protection Strategy indicates fire-related deaths are 10 times more common in indigenous communities than in the rest of Canada.
“I've been aware of the issues in terms of public safety, and public fire safety in First Nations' communities, for a while,” said Hamilton Fire Chief David Cunliffe.
He has an associate who worked as a former fire chief with Six Nations, and they frequently would talk about the need for better fire services on First Nations.
The quality of fire services on both reserves will improve significantly with the donation of the surplus trucks, said Couchiching Fire Chief Blake Yatchuk and Nigigoonsiminikaaning Fire Chief Ron Allen.
“Our tanker we have right now is pretty much toast,” Yatchuk explained.
“We're trying to do repairs on it but I think it's going to cost us too much to repair,” he noted.
Inside parts of Couchiching's fire truck are severely rusted. The department has taken it apart and currently is trying to sand it down to recoat the inside.
“The damage is pretty extensive," Yatchuk admitted. "We've been working on it for about two months already.”
Allen is in a very similar situation in terms of the current state of his department's fire truck, with it being 35 years old and experiencing issues.
“It's something that was really needed and it's a very opportune time that they [Hamilton] give it to us,” he remarked.
“[Our truck] will function but it's really on its last leg.”
Allen and his department are overjoyed with the donation, and believes everyone will rest easier knowing they will have a more reliable truck that can respond effectively to fire-related emergencies.
“It just give us an easier feeling when we know we have a fire truck that we can call on at any time,” he said.
The truck also will be able to provide better training for the department's firefighters, as well.
The truck for Couchiching is expected to arrive in June while Allen is awaiting to hear from the Hamilton Fire Department to find out when they will get theirs.
Cunliffe said his department currently is working out the logistics for handing over the vehicles.
“We are looking forward to working with the two communities,” he remarked.
The donated trucks each will receive a full safety inspection from the Hamilton Fire Department's Mechanical Division, and any necessary repairs completed, before they are delivered.