TNRD proposes expanded fire service

A proposed co-terminus fire service could bring fire protection to communities such as Birch Island

Map shows the location of four new fire protection service areas that would fill the gaps along Highway 5 under a TNRD proposal.

Map shows the location of four new fire protection service areas that would fill the gaps along Highway 5 under a TNRD proposal.

A proposed co-terminus fire service could bring fire protection to communities such as Birch Island – but there are no guarantees it would reduce fire insurance rates.

The service would result in a tax increase for those living in the affected area of $114 for a $100,000 house, said Ron Storie, manager of community services at Thompson-Nicola Regional District.

The basic idea would be to provide continuous fire protection along Highway 5 from McLure to Vavenby, Storie told a public meeting held at the Clearwater Legion on June 11.

Presently there are fire departments in McLure, Barriere, Little Fort, Blackpool, Clearwater and Vavenby.

However, there is no fire protection for people living in the gaps between the areas serviced by those departments.

“Often people do not realize that when you call 911 in a rural area, the fire service is not there,” Storie said.

There aren’t enough people, and there isn’t a big enough tax base to justify setting up fire departments in the gaps, he said.

Instead, what is being proposed is that the fire departments from the adjoining communities would provide fire protection on a contract basis.

They would be paid roughly $700 per hour for each callout.

The tax money collected would go towards paying for any callouts, plus the cost of installing several “dry hydrants” or underground water storage tanks at strategic locations in the gaps to be protected.

The department from the nearest community would be the primary responder,  while the one from the next nearest would provide backup.

For example, if there was a structural fire in the western part of Birch Island, Clearwater Fire Department would respond with a fire engine, water tanker and crew.  Vavenby Fire Department would provide backup with a water tanker.

If the fire was on the eastern side of the gap between the Clearwater and Vavenby fire protection districts, then Vavenby would provide a fire engine, water tanker and crew, while Clearwater would provide backup with a water tanker.

The four dry hydrants would be 10,000 gallon steel or fibreglass water tanks buried in the ground to prevent freezing.

Sites where they have been located have been tentatively located.

The proposal would result in continuous fire protection from along the Highway 5 corridor from the south boundary of McLure Fire Protection Area to the north boundary of Vavenby Fire Protection Area. Also included would be Roundtop Road, Birch Island, and the Birch Island -Vavenby Lost Creek Road.

Storie cautioned that, if the fire department concerned was already involved in a fire within its existing fire protection district, there was no guarantee that it could provide a timely response to a fire in one of the new co-terminus fire zones.

Similarly, the TNRD could not guarantee that being within a co-terminus fire zone would result in reduced fire insurance rates, he said.

He advised those affected to check with their insurance companies or brokers to find out.  Approval for the proposed co-terminus fire protection service would be by petition, said Liz Cornwell, TNRD manager of legislative services.  That means that, for the taxation changes to go ahead, at least 50 per cent of residents plus non-resident property owners in the affected areas must sign a petition in favor of the service. Those signing must also represent at least 50 per cent of the net taxable value within the affected areas.

If there are two owners, then both must sign, she said.  If there are more than two, then the majority must sign.  Deadline to get the petition completed is Aug. 9. If the petition is successful, then staff will present a bylaw to the TNRD board for approval later this year, and the new tax would begin in 2014.

A second public meeting to discuss the plan will be held on June 20, at the Clearwater Legion. See article below.