Pennell proposes fire protection for Birch Island

The new proposed service would be limited to the area between Clearwater and Vavenby

“It’s definitely the same, only different.”

That was how Tim Pennell described a proposed fire protection service for Birch Island.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District director for Wells Gray Country (Area A) was speaking at a Clearwater town council meeting held May 6.

The proposed service would be a scaled-down version of a proposal that was rejected by taxpayers last year. The earlier proposal would have provided fire protection for all of the North Thompson Valley from McLure to north of Vavenby.

The new proposed service would be limited to the area between Clearwater and Vavenby.

Its cost to taxpayers in the service area would be about 25 per cent less than last year’s proposal.

A referendum to decide on the scaled-down service will be held this November at the same time as local government voting.

Under the proposal, Clearwater Volunteer Fire Department and Vavenby Volunteer Fire Department would jointly provide coverage to the area between the two communities, Ron Storie, TNRD manager of community services, explained to council.

Depending on where the fire was located, the neared department would respond with one engine and one tanker, while the other would respond with one tanker.

The service would cover only structural and vehicle fires.

Both departments have adequate equipment to provide the service without needing more.

The major cost would be to install and maintain two 10,000 underground water tanks or “dry hydrants”.

One would be installed by Birch Island Park, the second near Dibblee Subdivision.

Cost of the metal or fibreglass tanks would be about $35,000 each, to be paid off over 10 years.

Cost to taxpayers would be about $160 for a $142,000 home (the average assessment in the proposed service area). This could decrease after the dry hydrants are paid off.

There would be no increase in taxes for Clearwater or Vavenby.

If there was a fire, then the fire departments involved would invoice the regional district. For example, one fire engine would collect $285 per hour.

There would be no guarantee of a timely response, Storie warned, but at least one fire department should be able to respond.

There also is no guarantee that residents will be able to reduce their insurance rates.

If the referendum approves the proposal, the fire protection service would begin in January of 2015.