Temporary closure of West Kelowna fire station raises concerns - InfoNews

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Temporary closure of West Kelowna fire station raises concerns

May 27, 2019 - 3:36 PM

WEST KELOWNA - While West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund is doubtful Station 32 will "brown out" again in the future, he's not ruling it out as a possibility.

Station 32, located on Olalla Road, primarily covers the affluent Lakeview Heights area, home to over 3,000 residents according to 2016 consensus data from the City of West Kelowna. On May 25, the station had to close down from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., reopening for the night shift.

Brolund said the decision to close the station for the day was an "absolute last resort," but a necessary one. The West Kelowna Fire Department has been suffering from a staff shortage for a while now, operating well below the 40 full-time firefighters necessary to function at peak strength.

Last weekend, Brolund said the shortage mixed with unexpected illnesses and overtime problems to severely reduced the amount of available workers. He said many firefighters had been working for 36 hours straight or longer and he needed to give them a break.

The closure attracted a fair amount of criticism and concern from citizens and officials. The Kelowna Professional Firefighters Association Twitter account called the closure a "dangerous situation."

Bill Gilchrist lives in the Lakeview Heights area. He was away for the weekend, but he was stunned to learn the station was closed for a day.

"It's terrible," he said. "Completely crazy. I'm really shocked."

Gilchrist said he's lived in the area since 2001 and he's never heard of the station closing for a day. He said his son worked as an auxiliary member of Station 32, but they told him he can't join as a full-time member until he turns 27. Gilchrist suggested the fire department re-examine its employment requirements, as they may be contributing to the staff shortage.

"Firemen can't work seven days a week," he said.

Brolund said the fire department has contingency plans during a station's closure. West Kelowna has another fully staffed station and two others with on-call members. Station 33 on Westlake Road is the closest one to Lakeview Heights.

"Lakeview Heights is covered," he said.

While a potentially empty fire station is a concern as fire season gears up, Brolund said the staffing shortage problem should be solved once the department gets 10 new full-time members in September.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 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 © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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