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by Isabel Mosseler

It was only the second time in its history that the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario (FFAO) held its annual convention north of Barrie, and both times were in Sturgeon Falls. Indeed, attendees enjoyed themselves so much in West Nipissing in 2014 that they suggested WN Fire Chief Richard Maranda host it again, which he did last week.

“They said that in 2014 we raised the bar, and then this time around we raised it again,” and it was even suggested the next convention return to Sturgeon Falls. It may have been in jest, but an exhausted Maranda and team, busy cleaning the Goulard Park grounds on Tuesday, are not planning to host another convention in the near future. While very pleased at the overall turnout and the excellent response, the fire chief and his volunteers were experiencing a bit of burnout, with still hours of work ahead of them. “It’s not finished until the clean up is done.”

Maranda reports that there were 97 campsites taken over the long weekend, with at least 200 attendees from across the province. Fire fighters took part in workshops, attended the FFAO annual meeting, upgraded their skills, took in a trade show, enjoyed several social activities, held a parade followed by a memorial service and had some fun competing in fire fighting games. Two popular workshops included the Auto Extrication exercise and the Marine Course. “That was at Station 1B, it’s to operate the vessel. They need an operator permit, small vessel operator license and marine emergency response.”

But there was some disappointment too. Chief Maranda and WN fire fighters Viany Morin and Mike Desormiers all agree that more local fire fighters should have taken part. Morin says there are 135 volunteer fire fighters in West Nipissing, and only a small contingent attended. Maranda adds that almost all the representatives were from southern Ontario, with some from Markstay-Warren, French River and West Nipissing. “That’s it, a really good opportunity for northern departments to participate, and we didn’t get the support from the north. All the support came from the south.”

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Northern fire fighters missing in action