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Aug. 11, 2020 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
Editorial: A new approach at NOTL fire department
Fire Chief Nick Ruller. (File photo/Dariya Baiguzhiyeva)

Kevin MacLean

Managing Editor

When emergencies occur, whether it’s a fire, car crash, medical emergency or major tragedy, almost always the first to arrive on the scene is the fire department.

Whether we realize it or not, even with a largely volunteer fire department here in Niagara-on-the-Lake, residents owe a lot – often their very lives – to the work of the largely unsung men and women of the fire service.

It can be dangerous work, though most calls are thankfully pretty routine. It can be life-changing work that affects firefighters’ health, as they can be exposed to everything from deadly chemicals to human tragedy that can’t help but take a toll on a person’s psyche.

For these, and a great many other reasons, we all need to appreciate the work our fire department does.

The work that NOTL firefighters do – and how they do it – is changing, as our community grows and develops.

In fact, even the name of what they do is evolving. We actually no longer have a NOTL fire department – it is officially NOTL Fire and Emergency Services, a reflection of the modern reality of what firefighters do in the community and on the job.

Our front-page story this week about Fire Chief Nick Ruller’s major reorganization of his department’s administration and how it serves and protects Niagara-on-the-Lake, is a timely reflection of how much the town is changing – and perhaps on how far it still has to go.

Ruller, a young, dynamic, well-educated administrator, is bringing to the fire service an outlook that dares to approach things differently than “the way it’s always been done.”

This is refreshing and welcome – though it could mean some pain for taxpayers down the road. If so, it will be a price worth paying.

As the newly appointed fire chief, Ruller has recognized that his department has a problem. There are serious concerns about staff retention in some key positions.

Staff workload also is an issue and the department has lost some key personnel to other municipalities where the same job pays double or more. That is worrisome.

And it is a big problem that likely will need to be addressed more fully in coming years. Meanwhile, the new chief has shown he is prepared to shake things up and face the challenges.

Ruller’s reorganization is a welcome initiative and appears to be a step in the right direction.

While we’re not sure what the future holds, it is encouraging to see the chief taking the reins and ensuring that our Fire and Emergency Service is ready to respond when the residents of NOTL call.

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