Changing standards trigger request for regional master fire plan

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen directors and staff met at the Penticton Lakeside Resort to discuss budget issues on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015.

PENTICTON - A Fire Master Plan is being proposed for inclusion into the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen’s 2016 budget at a cost of $50,000.

The item was part of budget talks today, Dec. 3, at the regional board budget meeting held at Penticton Lakeside Resort.

Community services manager Mark Woods told the board the B.C. Office of the Fire Commissioner’s recent release of the Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook, which established a new fire training standard has resulted in concerns being raised of the ability and capacity of the regional district’s seven fire departments to meet the new standards while maintaining volunteerism and budgets.

Woods urged the board to consider making budget provisions for a $50,000 review of the regional district’s fire services, addressing roles and responsibilities, service gaps, management and administration, training requirements, human resource management and fire and safety inspection requirements.

Not performing the review may result in a lost opportunity to address these challenges in a cost effective way, the board was told.

Chief Administrative Officer Bill Newell said he was “worried about our (fire) departments,” noting the standards recently introduced by the playbook, and increasing requirements for equipment and firehalls. He said regional district fire services were below the standards required, in administrative functions such as reporting.

Newell said there was also increasing pressure to provide fire code enforcements in rural areas.

“We need to look at what support we’re providing. We need a plan,” Newell said, adding standardization of practises and equipment was also an issue with the region’s fire departments.

The master plan was part of a list of program change requests put forward for the directors consideration by manager of finance Sandy Croteau as 2016 budget talks continue.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

Editor's Note in response to allegations from Vernon RCMP Supt. Jim McNamara
Editor’s note: • Watch shifts at the Vernon detachment have fallen to as low as three roadable officers. • The department suffers from chronic understaffing. • Sources, who we trust and who have knowledge of the s

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