Members of the Little Fort Volunteer Fire Department line up for a team photo during an open house held Sunday, April 22 to show off the new firehall addition to the community hall (visible on the left). Pictured are (back, l-r) Peter Mauch, Wyatt Braaten, Duncan McGrath, Shane Pittman, (front, l-r) Chris Jim, Al Crane, Kam Jim, Libby Toman, Jackie Johnson, and Shane Andrews.

Fate of Little Fort fire department goes to petition

Property owners to be asked to sign and send in petition forms to TNRD

Should Thompson-Nicola Regional District operate Little Fort Volunteer Fire Department? The question is going to the community to decide.

During a public meeting held Monday evening, April 23, in Little Fort Hall, property owners voted 50 to two in favour of having the TNRD conduct a petition assent process to determine if there should be a fire protection service administered by the regional district.

“Running a fire department in B.C. is no longer a simple, neighbour-helping-neighbour situation,” Libby Toman, the fire department’s secretary and a member of its board of directors, told the meeting.

New provincial standards mean that firefighters must have hundreds of hours of experience just to get basic certification, she said.

READ MORE: Review recommends TNRD take over fire departments (Feb. 1, 2018)

Worksafe BC and other agencies are imposing stricter rules and regulations.

Perhaps most importantly, there is a huge liability exposure for everyone involved, including firefighters and fire department directors.

Toman said that it the proposal to have the TNRD take over operation did not pass, she did not see the fire department continuing on for very much longer.

Last summer’s wildfire situation showed the value of having fire departments in small communities, said Ron Storie, the TNRD’s director of community services. Little Fort’s department in particular showed its worth.

“It could have been a lot worse, so kudos to you,” Storie said.

There have been three deaths of volunteer firefighters in B.C. since Clearwater’s Chad Schapansky was killed in a fire in 2004, he said.

In 2016 the regional district became aware that fire departments run by societies, of which there are six in the TNRD (including Little Fort), do not have the legal authority to go onto private property to fight fires.

The TNRD had a fire services review done in 2017. One of its major recommendations was that the regional district stop collecting taxes for the fire departments run by societies because of concerns about training standards and liability.

Earlier this year the TNRD board of directors voted to do just that – stop funding the society fire departments by the end of 2022.

READ MORE: TNRD moves to take over Little Fort fire department (Feb. 13, 2018)

If the change to having the regional district take over operation of the Little Fort Fire Department is approved, the proposed service area would be the same as it is now with the addition of 17 properties located along Highway 5 between Little Fort and Blackpool.

Those properties do not have fire protection at present.

The eventual goal would be to amalgamate the Little Fort and Blackpool fire departments into one, which should result in cost savings.

The budget for LFVD is presently about $30,000 per year, said Doug Rae, the TNRD director of finance.

In order to meet the new standards, that would need to increase to $150,000 per year.

That estimate is based on fire departments the TNRD already operates in Blackpool, Vavenby and Pritchard, he said.

Little Fort is fortunate in that the majority of the taxes (58 per cent) are paid by utilities, such as railroad, pipeline, telecommunications, etc.

To collect $150,000, the residential tax rate would be $1.68 per $1,000 assessment. With the average assessment within the service area being $179,000, the average residential tax would be $300.

Because property owners already pay an average of $62 for fire protection, the tax increase for the improved service would be an average of $238 per household (except for those properties along Highway 5 that are presently outside the fire protection area).

The fire department had asked that the decision be made by a petition rather than a referendum, said Carolyn Black, TNRD director of legislative services.

If the choice had been a referendum, there would have been a voting day and people would have come in and cast ballots, as in an election.

With the petition process, 50 per cent of the property owners representing 50 per cent of the assessed value must sign and send in a form that indicates they approve of the change.

There are 192 properties in the service area, which means there must be 96 forms turned in.

The total assessment for the Little Fort area is $49 million, which means the signed forms turned in must represent at least $24.5 million in assessed value.

Following the successful 50 to two straw poll at the end of the meeting, the matter will be taken to the TNRD board to authorize the petition process.

A more detailed information will be held on May 15 and petition forms will be handed out. Those unable to attend the meeting will have the forms mailed to them.

July 6 will be the deadline for the TNRD to receive the petition forms.

If the service is approved, the service will begin Jan. 1, 2019, which will be the first year of taxation.



newsroom@clearwatertimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Map shows the existing Little Fort fire protection service area at the bottom, and the Blackpool fire protection area at the top. The properties in the middle along Highway 5 in the Roundtop area (marked in yellow) would join with Little Fort under the proposal. Eventally, both fire departments could be amalgamated into one.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Three wildfires discovered in Clearwater area

All new fires suspected to have been caused by lightning

Simpcw question why Canfor’s $60 million sale of timber to Interfor

“We will not hesitate to take appropriate action to ensure our rights are protected”– Chief Loring

Ready Set Learn Early Childhood information day in Barriere

Thanks to the very generous support from many area businesses and organizations,… Continue reading

Barriere Babies of 2018 celebrate their birthday in style

The Barriere Babies of 2018 Birthday Party held at the Ridge on… Continue reading

Barriere’s “hidden gem” in the North Thompson Valley

There is a hidden gem in the North Thompson Valley, and it… Continue reading

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

B.C. Interior First Nation family ‘heartbroken’ over loss of young mom

RCMP have released no new information since the June 8, 2019 homicide

Most Read