June 01, 2016 - 7:30 PM
PENTICTON - The regional district is close to making firehalls alcohol-free, something which has been on the radar since 'the famous keg issue' in Oliver six years ago.
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is expected decide this week whether to force all firehalls in the district to be alcohol-free, or if the decision on how to handle alcohol will remain in the hands of each individual firehall.
The issue gained prominence locally following what regional district emergency services supervisor Dale Kronebusch calls 'the famous keg issue', referencing an incident that took place in Oliver on May 23, 2010.
According to a report in The Globe and Mail, Oliver firefighters took six kegs of beer from the ruins of the Mesa Hotel fire, and drank the contents of one back at the firehall. The entire department was reprimanded by Oliver town council and a new policy on alcohol consumption was put in place at the firehall.
Kronebusch says as a result, the policy came before a previous board in 2011. At that time the board decided to let individual departments handle it on their own, but the issue remains a high risk to the regional district.
“The board recognizes the issue of alcohol consumption at a regional district property, whether it’s a community centre or a firehall, as something that has some logistical complications to it,” Kronebusch says, adding the board will have the opportunity to decide if they want a regional policy governing alcohol use as opposed to having individual departments make their own policy.
Three of the regional district’s firehalls are already dry — Naramata, Tulameen and Willowbrook — leaving Kaleden, Okanagan Falls, Keremeos and Anarchist Mountain with internal policies guiding alcohol use within the firehall.
A staff recommendation to adopt a regional alcohol consumption and storage policy for regional district properties will come before the board’s protective services committee meeting tomorrow, June 2.
Kronebusch says the intent of the recommendation is to control alcohol through proper licensing and serving it responsibly with a set of rules guiding the procedure and while he doesn’t think it will eliminate the opportunity to have a beer after practise, he expects rules will likely be put in place.
“We recognize that it can help build morale, build camaraderie and that sort of thing,” Kronebusch says. “Nobody’s wants to deny that. We just want to make sure if they have those types of activities, they’re doing them safely and not putting members at risk.”
At no point have the firefighters been accused of drinking on the job. Any consumption of alcohol takes place when firefighters are off duty.
If the board approves the recommendation, Kronebusch expects the policy will become effective immediately.
— This story was updated at 10:07 a.m., Thursday, June 2, 2016, to make clear no firefighters are drinking while on the job.
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