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Vernon fire service amalgamation launched
The City of Vernon has doused renewing a fire services contract with the Okanagan Landing department.
At an in-camera meeting July 23, council authorized city administrator Will Pearce to notify the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association that the city will not be renewing its contract when it expires Jan. 31, 2013.
“On Tuesday, July 31, at 7 p.m., all active firefighters belonging to the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association were invited to join the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association, and provide service under the existing agreement between the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association and the City of Vernon,” said Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky in a city-issued press release.
Council’s primary objectives with this initiative are to bring together all volunteer and career firefighters into one cohesive firefighting team.
“The benefits will also include a reduction in overall costs while providing skilled, well-trained firefighters to deliver the best emergency response to all residents,” said the release.
The City of Vernon has been the beneficiary of the efforts of Okanagan Landing volunteers since 1975, and the fire suppression service has been contracted by the city since 1993 when a boundary extension brought the Landing into municipal limits.
“We’re quite disappointed in that obviously, that we’re not going to have a new contract with the city,” said Okanagan Landing fire chief Dan Fuhr on Wednesday. “I haven’t even had a chance to tell the members. We haven’t met yet.”
There are currently close to 30 members of the Okanagan Landing volunteer fire department.
The city owns the hall and the equipment, and Fuhr said the plan, as it stands now, is to keep the hall manned with volunteers.
The news also means Fuhr will have been the chief for only a year. He took over in January when Ed Forslund retired.
Fuhr is a 10-year member whose father, Doug, was a charter member with the Landing department and a former chief.
“The way they’ve got it set out I don’t think there will be a Landing chief anymore,” said Fuhr. “If we’re joining the Vernon volunteers, they will fall in line with them where everybody reports to chief (Keith) Green.”
In the city release, Vernon Fire Rescue said it recognizes the valuable service and high level of dedication of the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association during their contracts with the city.
“It is important to note that the members of the association have a rich tradition and history,” said the release. “The objective is to combine the fire force without disrupting the ability of the association to continue other community activities.”
Fuhr isn’t sure what the Landing volunteers will do.
“It’s a different organization than what we’re a part of, what we signed up to do,” said Fuhr.
The city states that its recommendation positions all firefighters, including Vernon career and volunteers, and volunteers currently with Okanagan Landing, to benefit from standardized training, improved safety, economy of scale for budget requirements and a common goal of community service.
Along that line, council announced it had approved housing the new water tender truck to Station 1 located at 3401-30th Street.
Locating the new fire truck in Station 1 will enable the training of all volunteer and career firefighters on the use of the truck before it is put into service.
“Having the fire truck initially at Station 1 allows fleet services, our mechanic and our training division the opportunity to develop maintenance and deployment guidelines for the new apparatus which will help us to use our resources in the most practical and safe manner,” said Vernon Fire Rescue Services chief Keith Green.
On completion of training, the new truck will be permanently deployed to a location which will provide the best service to the city.