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Changes in the works for regional fire department operations

FILE PHOTO- Regional district firefighters in Kaleden work to douse a garage fire in the community in February, 2017. Regional district board members accepted the fire service master plan at the Sept. 21, 2017 board meeting, also agreeing to limit firefighting tactics in all departments to exterior attack only.

PENTICTON - The operation of the regional district’s seven fire departments continues to develop in complexity, responsibility and oversight, and that means changes are on the way with respect to how they will operate in the future.

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen’s board of directors received the 104 page fire services master plan recently, a comprehensive document intended to provide a logical direction for the regional district as it seeks to comply with the B.C. Fire Commissioner’s office for firehall and firefighting standards.

The board accepted recommendations from staff that included the creation of a new position and realignment of an existing one to accommodate fire services at yesterday’s board meeting, Sept. 21.

The emergency services supervisor’s position will be realigned into a fire services coordinator, funded by all seven departments, and the creation of an emergency management coordinator's position will be funded through the emergency planning program.

The board also accepted a recommendation restricting all departments from conducting interior attacks on structure fires until training requirements and records management provisions identified in the British Columbia’s Office of the Fire Commissioner’s “Playbook” is achieved.

Chief administrative officer Bill Newell said in an email the new Fire Safety Act, intended for introduction into law in 2018, requires all B.C. regional districts to provide fire inspection and fire investigation, something that used to be the responsibility of a local assistant to the fire commissioner.

A sub-regional service will be needed for all eight electoral areas, with taxpayer approval likely sought through the alternate approval process.

The fire services master plan, an extensive review of the district’s fire departments, was initiated in the second quarter of 2017. Audits of each individual department was conducted and an overall fire services master plan presented to the regional district.

In staff’s report to the board, it was noted the regional district could “no longer leave it up to the individual departments to determine how we proceed,” adding the district needed to provide better support and more robust leadership and oversight to the departments.

The board was also informed of two recent resignations in the regional district fire service as long-time Okanagan Falls Fire Department Chief Bob Haddow and Willowbrook  Fire Chief Brad Fosset announced their retirements recently.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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