March 26, 2013 - 9:02 AM
By Charlotte Helston
Vernon's fire chief says a new service model that involves outlying communities is great not just for the community, but for individual firefighters as well.
Keith Green says there's still resistance in some circles to the integration of Okanagan Landing volunteers with Vernon's downtown services, but he believes the past two months have proved the worth of the new structure. He gave city council an update on how things have been going at Monday's city council meeting.
"The new model's been great, it's unfortunate we've had a number of large scale incidents, but in a sense, it helps us to test the new model," Green says.
Volunteers have responded to a number of fires since joining forces in January, including the blaze at Vernon's recycling facility, and more than one house fire.
"The recycling fire was our first big test," Green says. "I would give us an A grade, certainly there's room for improvement, but our guys are working hard."
He attributes much of the crew's success to the leadership of the senior firefighters.
"The new integrated guys (from Okanagan Landing) are ambassadors for the young guys," Green says. "There are a lot of eager guys from (Vernon Volunteer Fire Fighters) that are probably over-utilizing the (Okanagan Landing firefighters), they're phoning them every day because they want to train. I think the (Okanagan Landing firefighters) have reacted by taking on a leadership role."
New roles and new ranges are two things that accompanied the switch.
"Everybody's quite excited about being able to take on new duties and respond to different areas. Those guys that just live outside the Fulton area that would never have been able to respond to that incident because it wasn't in their zone now get an opportunity to pull down shiplap and sawdust insulation and they're covered in foam, and they're excited," Green says. "The people that own the house obviously aren't, but our job is to go put the fire out and our guys did a great job."
Green admits there are some challenges, like occasional shortages of volunteers because "it's a volunteer system and people do have lives." He says there's a recruitment drive on right now to buff up the numbers.
Thirteen Okanagan Landing volunteers chose to join the Vernon crew while the same amount refused. Green says of the 13 that merged, ten are at work now while three are off due to medical and personal reasons.
"From our perspective, things are going well," Green says. "I went out for coffee with a number of them last week, and everyone was fairly satisfied. I'm confident we're all here to satisfy the community."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013