Ontario bill aims to save firefighters' lives
Ron Walter says it’s a fitting tribute to his fallen son.
He chokes back tears as he talks about his son and the Private Member’s Bill named after him and a fellow firefighter that was introduced at Queen’s Park Thursday. His son, Ray, 30, and 56-year-old Ken Rea were killed battling a fire in Listowel, Ont., in March 2011.
“Sometimes, you have to take a life to save a life,” Walter said, stopping as tears ran down his cheeks. “There were both great firefighters. We’ve got to help save the ones that are still working at it.”
Ray Walter and Ken Rea responded to a blaze in the village’s Dollar Store and were killed when the building’s roof collapsed. Investigators later found the materials used in the store were light-weight wooden trusses. They’re a modern material in structures across North America, perfectly safe under normal circumstances, but more fragile and quick to fail during a fire.
Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Pettapiece’s bill, which passed first reading Thursday, would require every building where light-weight materials have been used to be outfitted with a decal to warn firefighters.
“It means a lot because (it will) help save lives,” Ron Walter said of the bill. “I was on the fire service for 26 years and every little bit of knowledge helps in a working fire.”
Pettapiece consulted with firefighters across the province when putting the bill together. A number of U.S. states including New Jersey, New York and Illinois have already adopted similar systems, he said.
“By minimizing the risk and by maximizing their information we can help make (firefighters) safer,” he said.
Minister of Community Safety Marie-France Lalonde said the government will support Pettapiece’s bill as it moves through the Legislature. It’s an important measure to protect firefighters across Ontario, she said.
“Six years ago what happened in that community was very tragic,” she said. “It shook this community and the role of firefighters is tremendous. We want to say thank you.”