A mutual aid agreement for fire services between the twin Sault was renewed Monday night as municipal leaders from both sides of the St. Mary’s held a joint meeting for the first time since 2017. The meeting was held at Sault, Michigan’s City Hall.
“Furthering development of the important relationship between our communities has been a priority of mine, and tonight represented an opportunity for elected officials and municipal staff to engage in a formal discussion about how we can work together with increased frequency,” said Sault Mayor Matthew Shoemaker.
The two sides’ first order of business was to renew an International Mutual Aid Agreement for fire services, that dates back to 1984. “We do have to depend on each other,” said Sault, Michigan Fire Chief Ed
Miller, noting the original agreement was struck before a major incident like 9-11, where personnel and other resources could face serious strains. Insurance and reimbursements for damaged equipment weren’t covered in the original document, said Miller, “(but) we’re updating a tool that has worked already.”
Sault, Ontario Fire Chief Peter Johnson said he and Miller have discussed potential joint training exercises for their respective departments, possibly on the International bridge, in the spring, when bridge traffic isn’t at its
peak. Johnson says Sault Ontario crews have responded to a few calls to the Michigan Sault over the years adding he himself was part of a crew called to help quell a blaze at the Alpha Bar in the mid 90s. “I’m quite confident between both departments that when this agreement is activated I’m certain it’ll be successful,” said Johnson.
The motion to renew the agreement was passed unanimously by both sides. Sault Ontario’s City Council is expected to pass the agreement with a bylaw at its next regular meeting Oct. 10.
Ward 1 Councillor Sonny Spina says renewing the agreement provides peace of mind. “It has never been a question in our mind, that you would be coming if and when we need you,” said Spina. “The amount of ease that you bring to everyone’s mind, knowing that you’re there, knowing that that help would come, knowing that it’s not going to be 300 kilometres away in Sudbury, it’s going to come from our neighbors right here. It’s really instrumental in helping our emergency services personnel make decisions and know that
we have the support from you.”
Ward 2 councillor Lisa Vezeau-Allen said Canada and the US came together to fight many forest fires in both countries this summer, adding she’s happy to see the twin Sault agreement renewed and formalized.
“I think it’s really important that we all work together because we’re all here together,” said Vezeau-Allen. “It means a lot to both of our communities to be safe and thrive. Really glad for both of the chiefs to get together and be proactive and have this done.”
Ward 2 Councillor Luke Dufour asked if it’s possible the agreement could include other areas, besides fire, where mutual assistance could be employed.
City Administrative Officer Malcolm White said staff decided to confine the agreement to fire services but other components were considered and might be added in the future