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Strong show of community support to save the Skead Fire Station

The Skead Community Centre was packed with people on Thursday in a show of support for keeping their fire station open, with the evening meeting’s crowd spilling out into the parking lot

The Skead Community Centre was packed with people eager to show their support for keeping their fire station open.

Thursday evening’s crowd for a city public consultation session spilled into the parking lot. Parked vehicles lining Skead Road dozens of vehicles deep in each direction and on both sides.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” community advocate Nicole Everest told “This community has been very much a tight-knit community, and we really volunteer a lot, and we value our firefighters here in Skead.”

Among those holding protest signs was Huguette Blechta, who has lived in Skead since 1983 and said local fire services were much better back in the day.

“We knew for sure that if there was ever a call for smoke, volunteers were there,” she said, adding that keeping the fire hall is “very important.”

Twenty-year Skead resident Arlene Mann told it takes too long for members from other fire stations to reach Skead, which becomes particularly worrisome in the summer months, when the area’s population explodes with people visiting Lake Wanapitei. 

“This is a beautiful, wonderful place to live, and we love our community, and we need our services,” she said as people walked past her on their way to the Skead Community Hall.

“I just love Skead, and I love seeing all the people out here doing what we have to do.”

As one of several proposed changes to the city’s emergency services infrastructure, the Skead station is slated to be consolidated with Falconbridge into a new ideal site in Garson.

Skead residents have already submitted a 417-name petition to city council in an attempt to save their fire station, which Ward 7 Coun. Natalie Labbée presented to her colleagues earlier this year.

The Skead station has been closed since early 2022, when a vehicle badly damaged the building by backing into a pillar located between its two garages.

Even before the Skead station’s closure, volunteer fire crews from Garson, and in some cases career staff from New Sudbury, were stepping up to serve the area. At least five members are required per call-out, and the Skead station hasn’t had enough members in years.

An average of one Skead member has shown up for call-outs in recent years, and the station has averaged six members to draw from in the past decade. Membership currently sits at one.

Although low volunteerism has relegated the station to near-redundancy in recent years, many of the area residents who attended Thursday’s meeting don’t believe this should be the case.

Carmen Kunto, a Skead resident for more than 40 years, said the high turnout at Thursday’s meeting is indicative of widespread community support for the station.

A group of volunteers reaffirmed this notion in recent weeks by banding together to pull together a list of 16 prospective volunteer firefighters.

Despite this effort, resident Marc Lamothe cautions that current training requirements for volunteer firefighters are likely to bring the number down.

Formerly a volunteer firefighter on Manitoulin Island, he said the prerequisites are too high, and that he’d be ineligible due to the city’s minimum physical requirements. 

The city used to require a minimum of 40 hours of training, but a new provincial standard will require a minimum of 220 hours of training, which has a set compliance date of July 1, 2026.

During a Greater Sudbury-wide recruitment drive in 2021, the city saw 64 volunteer firefighters join the municipality’s ranks.

There were 213 applicants, of whom 147 went forward with physical assessment testing. The majority of those to drop off at this stage did so because they did not reside in the response area. With more dropping off at each step, 90 proceeded to the interview process, 72 came forward for the mandatory 40 hours of training, and 64 were hired. 

WIth a success rate this low, Labbée said the city has failed.

“We’re not giving them the proper tools to succeed,” she told outside of the Skead Community Centre, adding that she’s afraid the consolidation of several fire halls will result in even more volunteer firefighters quitting.

“We’re not in a position where we can lose any more, because we’re already behind the eight ball in the amount of volunteers we need.”

The number of volunteer firefighters in Greater Sudbury has dropped by 38.6 per cent over the past decade, and follows a downward trend seen across North America.

Greater Sudbury Fire Services formed a recruitment committee a couple years ago consisting of management, volunteers and union representation, Chief Joseph Nicholls told at the Skead Community Centre, between meetings with concerned residents.

“We always look at our process,” he said, adding that each year’s recruitment effort begins with a review of their processes. 

The city’s newly hired deputy fire chief, Nathan Milan, will be heading the effort this year.

The Skead station was built in 1979, and a 2018 estimate noted its replacement cost would be $598,000. Its estimated 10-year capital repair requirement is $1.15 million.

The station’s five-year average incident response is seven per year, during which the number of Skead station member attendance has been one.

The Skead area’s 90th percentile response time has been 21 minutes and 12 seconds.

In its current state, with other stations already responding to calls in the Skead area, the Fire Underwriters Survey ranks the area as a five in the Dwelling Protection Grade, which is the lowest it can rank. The area is classified as “unprotected.”

Nicholls clarified that this is one of a handful of factors insurance companies use to determine insurance rates, and that he can’t estimate to what degree the impact might be.

Labbée said a presentation will be made at a future city council meeting highlighting how homeowners might be affected by proposed changes in fire services.

In the event city council were to retain and repair the Skead station, and they were able to sustain enough volunteer firefighters to begin responding to calls again, Nicholls said the area’s Dwelling Protection Grade could theoretically improve.

Although community volunteers have compiled a list of 16 prospective volunteers, Nicholls said they’ve been spurred to action by the potential closure of a fire hall, and it remains to be seen whether they follow through.

“We are committed to continuing to recruit,” Nicholls said, adding that regardless of what city council members end up deciding, they will continue looking for and training volunteers.

On Thursday evening, an emergency services consultation meeting also took place in Coniston, whose station is slated to be consolidated with Wahnapitae at a new ideal site.

A meeting has already been held regarding proposed changes to the Minnow Lake station.

The following are the remaining public consultation sessions:

Wednesday, April 26

Beaver Lake

Beaver Lake Emergency Services Station

7535 Highway 17

5 to 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 27


Falconbridge Emergency Services Station

21 Edison Rd., Falconbridge

5 to 7 p.m.


Hanmer Emergency Services Station

4680 Lafontaine St., Hanmer

5 to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, May 3


Wahnapitae Emergency Services Station

162 Hill St., Wahnapitae

5 to 7 p.m.

Monday, May 8

Val Caron

Val Caron Emergency Services Station

3064 Leduc St., Val Caron

6 to 8 p.m.

Vermillion Lake

Dowling Leisure Centre – Boardroom

79 Main St. W, Dowling

5 to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, May 10

Copper Cliff

Copper Cliff Emergency Services Station

35 Godfrey Dr., Copper Cliff

5 to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, May 17


Waters Emergency Services Station

25 Black Lake Rd., Lively

5 to 7 p.m.

Alongside in-person public meetings, the city set up an online information page and survey for people to fill out online, which is available by clicking here.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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