Forest fire worker and OPSEU/SEFPO Local 703 Vice-President Noah Freedman from Sioux Lookout spoke with local media from Muskoka about a meeting forest fire workers and OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick had with the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry this August.
Forest fire workers and President Hornick met with Minister Smith to seek his commitment to provide better wages, more permanent positions, and job reclassification.
In the interview with Muskoka Region news, Noah spoke about the retention crisis in Aviation, Forest Fires and Emergency Services (AFFES) because of the low pay and the resulting loss of experienced forest fire workers. He stressed the danger that young, inexperienced forest fire workers find themselves in because there simply aren’t enough experienced workers to lead crews.
“We were having trouble keeping people because the money is not enough. You can make more money almost anywhere,” said Freedman. “Thirty years ago, you had a crew of four people, and each person on the crew had at least 20 years of experience. Your average fire crew today has less than eight years of experience. We are sending young people under the age of 25, with maybe five years of experience, to lead fire crews into brand new fires in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “These young firefighters are tasked with fighting fires and doing it safely. It is a life-and-death situation.”
Forest fire workers are putting their lives on the line to keep us and our communities safe. Send a message to your MPP, Minister Smith, and Doug Ford now and call on them to fix the retention crisis in AFFES: OntarioIsBurning.ca