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The Provincial Mutual Aid System

The Provincial Mutual Aid System is a no-charge reciprocal system of emergency response and assistance that communities and municipalities in southern Manitoba can access through their local fire departments. The main focus of the Mutual Aid System is to make a large number of resources available in a pre-arranged, organized fashion at no additional cost to the community or municipality requiring assistance during a large-scale emergency situation

Mutual Aid may be activated when the fire or emergency is beyond the capability of the responding department. For example, if a fire in your community is too large for your local fire department to handle alone, Mutual Aid could be activated to mobilize additional equipment and personnel. Mutual Aid also offers back-up protection. When there are more emergency calls than the local fire department can respond to. For example, If the local fire department is attending to one or more fires or emergency calls, this system provides response to any other fire or emergency that may arise in that community or municipality. All of this additional assistance is provided at no cost.

The Provincial Mutual Aid System is set up under the provision of Section 266 of The Municipal Act.

This Section empowers municipalities to enter into agreements with other municipalities for providing or obtaining fire protection or emergency response assistance. Mutual Aid does not affect or replace this authority.

There are seventeen (17) Mutual Aid Districts and three (3) Northern Training Districts across the province. These districts are organized using geographic considerations and response time capabilities of neighbouring departments.

Northern Training Districts are organized in a similar manner to the southern Mutual Aid Districts. However, due to the geographic barriers and long travel distances between communities, reciprocal response is often unrealistic.

Therefore, the primary objective of Northern Training Districts is to ensure that quality training programs are made available to all the participating communities.

Each Mutual Aid District has an assigned co-ordinator who is responsible for the smooth and orderly response of equipment from one community or municipality to another. The co-ordinator also ensures that during a Mutual Aid call, no community or municipality is left without back-up protection in the event that some other emergency occurs elsewhere within the district.

Each fire department in a Mutual Aid District has a pre-arranged assignment specifying which neighbouring departments they are to back-up and in which priority (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd called in). In other words, every fire department in a Mutual Aid District knows beforehand which town or municipality they may be required to assist or provide coverage for and in what order.

The authority for requesting assistance rests with the Fire Chief or, in their absence, with the Officer in charge of the incident. The Fire Chief or Officer in charge of the scene will request the assistance of the “first help call department”, providing pertinent information including directions and specifications regarding the type and number of resources that are required. Before responding, the assisting department is required to notify the District Mutual Aid Coordinator and notify him or her of the details of the incident and request for assistance. The district coordinator is then responsible for arranging the necessary back-up coverage throughout the district. If additional help is required at the scene, the Fire Chief or Officer in charge will call direct to the district coordinator who will arrange such assistance and further back-up coverage for the responding department’s area of responsibility.

A community or municipality must pass a by-law to participate in the Mutual Aid System. Mutual aid calls are on a no-charge basis, however, calls which fall under a fire protection agreement are subject to the terms and conditions of that agreement. It should be noted that to qualify as a “Mutual Aid Call”, the resources of the requesting department must be fully committed.

In addition to the assurance of assistance, and the availability of specialized equipment when required, participation in the Mutual Aid System has many other advantages. The Office of the Fire Commissioner also provides considerable equipment and training benefits to the Provincial Mutual Aid System, such as:

  • Breathing air compressors are provided at strategic locations within each district to refill breathing air tanks for all participating departments.
  • Financial incentive fund for training is allocated annually to Mutual Aid/Training District and is to be used to support the continued development and enhancement of the Mutual Aid/Training District’s training capacity through initiatives such as developing instructors for the District and to train and upgrading the qualifications of active members of the fire departments.
  • Additional funding support will be provided to Mutual Aid/Training Districts hosting the MESC’s Vehicle Extrication Seminar, School Bus Rescue Seminar or Farm Accident Rescue Seminar, to support with the costs associated to secure vehicles and machinery for these seminars