From the OPFFA Executive:
Over time it has become a normal news update around the world - tornadoes, hurricanes, avalanches, wildfires and more; Natural disasters and the destructive impact that they have on their communities has become far too familiar. In Ontario while we experience some of these disasters, the annual spring thaw has become one of the largest, impacting communities across Ontario.
Today in Ontario there are states of emergency, evacuations and massive flood mitigation efforts underway, as leaders and community members take every precaution to keep Ontarians and their properties safe. With more precipitation in the forecast in many areas and the “snow pack” in the north having yet to fully melt, there are fears that water levels will continue to rise. Roads are washed out and closed, bridges have been closed and power has been turned off making travel dangerous in many areas.
There are reported to be over 1 million sandbags along the Ottawa River alone, with communities along the Ottawa Valley from Ottawa to Renfrew suffering devastating flooding predicted to be 50 cm above the 2017 levels. Tragically this flooding, predicted to reach historic levels, is eerily familiar as many are only recently recovering from the flooding of 2017. Bracebridge and surrounding areas in Ontario’s cottage country have declared states of emergencies as the water levels of the Muskoka Lakes have risen leaving properties submerged. We know that many of our members live and or cottage in many of these areas. With the potential of increased precipitation, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence river are now also at risk of flooding.
IAFF Disaster Relief
The OPFFA is working together with IAFF District 13 Vice President Fred LeBlanc to co-ordinate any IAFF Disaster Relief efforts that are available to OPFFA members. We ask that local leaders contact their OPFFA District Vice President and provide an update regarding the flooding conditions in their local area along with any personal impacts on their members, in particular members whose primary residence is threatened.
For communities or members seeking assistance protecting or recovering from the flooding we, at the OPFFA, are able to reach out to other OPFFA members and spread any calls for assistance to those who wish to help out in any way they can.
With mapping provided by the IAFF, we know OPFFA affiliated members work and live in threatened communities. They continue to report to work in those communities and assist with filling sand bags, helping neighbours, and other flood efforts in their home communities on their off time. All while their own homes risk devastation from rising waters. As members manage their own personal damage, they go to work, respond at home and face the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen tomorrow. It is important to remind these Brothers and Sisters that there are local, employee and community supports in place to help them deal with all of the stresses of the situation and can provide mental health support to them and their family.
How you can help
This event is widespread and devastating. Canadian Forces have been deployed across Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick as these provinces work to keep their residents safe and attempt to mitigate the damage, in Northern Ontario, the Kashechewan First Nation community has been evacuated. We continue to watch the efforts of our Brothers and Sisters and their communities in Quebec and New Brunswick; we send our collective good thoughts and hope that all stay safe.
Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with OPFFA members and all communities affected. We are doing our best to have an understanding of the effects on our locals and members and encourage members, through their locals to reach out to us.
We encourage members to consider donations to the IAFF Disaster Relief Fund which provides assistance to our Brother and Sister IAFF members and their families across North America who suffer personal losses from natural and other disasters.