OPSEU/SEFPO Local 703 Vice President Noah Freedman wrote a power letter to the editor describing the risk and working conditions forest fire workers face to keep us and our communities safe. He mentioned the urgent need for reclassification to retain experienced forest fire workers before the start of the 2024 wildfire season. Forest fire workers aren’t compensated properly for the work they do and the risks they take and are dealing with a frustrating lack of accountability and communication from the Ford government.
Noah wrote about the sense of duty forest fire workers feel towards protecting Ontarians, our communities and the Boreal forest – Ontario’s lungs. They put life and limb on the line despite earning very little for the work they do.
When the season is over, and our backs and lungs are destroyed, staff look at their bank account and ask, “Why did I do this?”. The only reason anyone sticks around is because we have a duty to protect the people of Ontario and train the next generation of firefighters, but until we pay people better, our efforts are wasted.
You can read Noah’s full letter to the editor here: https://www.baytoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letter-what-does-vic-fedeli-know-about-fighting-forest-fires-7770686
There is a solution to the retention crisis in Aviation, Forest Fires and Emergency Services (AFFES). The Ford government could reclassify forest fire workers with the stroke of a pen but instead they’re punting responsibility and repeating empty platitudes that do nothing to address the crisis.
Next year’s wildfire season will be just as destructive if not worse than this year’s wildfire season. We need to address the retention crisis in AFFES before it starts. Send a message to your MPP, Minister Graydon Smith and Premier Doug Ford calling on them to take immediate action now: https://opseu.org/ontario-is-burning/