Fire department administration hot topic for regional directors - InfoNews

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Fire department administration hot topic for regional directors

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April 04, 2018 - 5:00 PM

PENTICTON - The controversy surrounding the regional district's attempts to create bylaws to control its seven fire departments continues.

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen staff are recommending the board repeal of an old bylaw that previously set out regulations for all fire departments.

A report from staff going to the Thursday, April 5 board meeting suggests fire chiefs have not accepted the bylaw’s centralized model, and following the most recent board conversations and direct dialogue between chiefs and elected officials, the indication is the board would be more comfortable reverting to individual regulatory bylaws for each department which requires the repeal of the 2011 bylaw.

At the same time, several directors are voicing their opposition to a new bylaw under discussion. That legislation was intended to provide for the administration and operation of the regional district’s fire departments, addressing weaknesses seen in the previous bylaw. 

Three rural directors voiced their opposition to the proposed bylaw in letters written to the board last March.

Osoyoos rural director Mark Pendergraft says most regional fire chiefs do not support the new bylaw, believing it will have the opposite effect intended with respect to bringing departments up to standardized training levels.

Pendergraft wrote that staff missed the fact fire departments see themselves as volunteers answering to their communities rather than paid employees under the administration of the regional district, sentiments echoed by Okanagan Falls director Tom Siddon.

He urged board members not to rush into adopting the proposed bylaw change, writing it would be far better for staff to “expend every possible effort to win a consensus of support from the chiefs… before rushing to impose the key provisions of this bylaw.”

Siddon wrote more consultation with the fire chiefs would be a good way to maintain positive relations with the fire departments and the largely semi-rural communities they serve.

A third letter to the board from Keremeos rural alternate director Roger Mayer said the “top down” bylaw would not work.

“I would not be surprised to see some of the departments hand the RDOS the keys, as morale would be greatly affected,” he wrote.

Mayer advised tabling of the bylaw or abandoning it altogether in favour of going to the seven fire departments to develop appropriate bylaws acceptable to the departments.

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