Renfrew fire chief forced out due to age

The fire chief in the town of Renfrew is out of a job -- for a reason some find unfair and infuriating.

Guy Longtin was a veteran of the job. He had been serving in the role of fire chief since 1992. This week that all came to an end. Longtin has learned he no longer holds the position because at the age of 61 it's been decided he's too old for the job.

He was forced out of his job after Renfrew's town council passed a new policy.

“It's not the physical nature of the job, it's the stress and associated long term stress of the position” says Peter Emon, Town of Renfrew Reeve.

Seven years ago Ontario passed a law making it mandatory for salaried frontline firefighters to retire by the age of 60. The idea there was to recognize the unique hazardous work done by frontline firefighters.

The town's council ruled the same dangers and risks firefighters face in the line of duty could be applied to the fire chief of a small town like Renfrew.

Emon says “In a lot of incidences, either in practice or by expectation of position description they are active firefighters by managing a scene.”

Council says part of Longtin's job is to be on scene for some fires.

Reached by phone, Longtin says his role did not involve actively fighting fires. In a Facebook post, Longtin announced he had lost his job due to the town's new policy.

He writes: "I want to go on record to state that my employment was not terminated for cause, or for any other reason other than I am now older than the town's newly created policy on mandatory retirement age for their fire chief."

He went on to say: "Up until the minute that I was advised of this decision, I was fulfilling my duties in a manner that either met or exceeded the requirements expected of me."

In town, some are questioning the decision to let him go. “As long as he's physically and mentally fit, I don't see there being an issue. That's ageism as far as I'm concerned” says one resident.

Another adds “I don't like seeing somebody forced out just because of age. If he's physically able to do it, let him continue.”

Renfrew has appointed a new acting chief. The town hopes to have a new fire chief in the job by September.