In case you haven’t noticed, or if you have been out of town for the last two weeks or have had your head buried in sand, the main bridge on Concession Street that connects the North and South side of Russell is now permanently closed to all vehicular traffic, this also includes emergency vehicles. During recent meetings, Township and the contractor have informed us that we should assume this to be the case until sometime in October. With this news Chief Armstrong along with Deputy Chief Provost felt that measures needed to be taken to ensure adequate fire protection service was still provided to the community we serve. The dilemma we faced was to keep response times down throughout the village while using the alternate routes, with the bridge closed it was obvious that we would be looking at delays for the firefighters living North of the river getting to the hall and obviously the trucks getting from the hall to the North side of the village. However before jumping to conclusions about the situation we felt it was best to perform a few test runs to see if the alternate routing would actually cause major or minor delays in our response times, unfortunately the findings established that we simply could not operate as we normally would and other measures would need to be taken. After consultation with township and the firefighters themselves it was decided that the Russell Fire Department will need to operate our staffing a little more like a full time department for the duration of the project. The solution was to put at least two firefighters on either “stand-by” or “on-call” at all times, this would include having some of our firefighters sleep overnight at the station. The reasoning was simple, instead of incurring delays in both directions, it was better to only incur delays in one direction, by having firefighters ready to roll at a moment’s notice we could maintain the required response times throughout the village while the bridge was closed. As you can well imagine this did require a change to our normal operation procedures but these details have been worked out and understood by the entire staff. During the lead up to the closure the entire department was called to staff meetings on a regular basis to keep everyone informed of any potential changes. Not only did it require operational changes but lifestyle changes for a great number of the firefighters. Having to leave our families to spend an entire night at the firehall, only to get up and go to our full time jobs is not what many of us are used to. However, it was decided by the entire staff that if this is what is necessary to maintain our service then it needed to be done. We want to ensure all Russell residents that our department is doing everything we can to keep the people we serve protected, however we would ask everyone to pay extra special attention to fire safety during this period.
Published in The Villager newspaper - August 18, 2010.
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