Firefighters reflect on Landing era
It’s the end of an era in Okanagan Landing.
Many of the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association members hung up their hats permanently as their service contract with the city ended Thursday.
“We’re feeling very sad and angry,” said Todd Montgomery, association president.
“We have been kicked out of our own home.”
The city decided last summer not to renew the contract so it could move towards a single command model based out of the Vernon fire hall.
The association, though, lobbied to have the contract renewed, saying the contract provided a cost-efficient service for the community.
There were 26 association members and about 13 have accepted the new model with the city. The remainder are retiring.
The Okanagan Landing Fire Department was formed in 1975 and entered into a contract with the city when the Landing was annexed into Vernon in 1993.
“We wanted to provide a good service to the taxpayers of Okanagan Landing,” said Ed Forslund, a founding member and a former chief.
For Forslund, the department became his second family.
“There have been funerals, anniversary parties and birthday parties. There were all of the things that go into camaraderie,” he said, adding that part of the stipend for practises went to the community.
“There were donations to groups and scholarships.”
Forslund is upset with how the association has been handled by the city.
“They had no consideration for the history and contribution of the volunteers,” he said.
Montgomery believes Landing firefighters — past and present — should have a strong sense of pride.
“We built something great and we served the community extremely well. There are many wonderful memories,” he said.
The association hasn’t been formally disbanded yet and a decision must still be made on the fire boat it owns.
Vernon Fire Department officials say they are looking forward to assuming responsibility for apparatus and firefighters responding out of the Okanagan Landing hall.
“Many Okanagan Landing Volunteer Fire Fighter Association members have joined our team and we are excited to move forward with our eye on building a cohesive group of firefighters, all with the same goals and objectives in mind,” said Keith Green, Vernon fire chief.
Those Landing volunteers that accept the new command model will be part of the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association.
“Together, we will continue to serve our community in the best way we can when called upon,” said Green.
Starting today, the city will deploy volunteer firefighters out of the downtown and Landing halls.
“Vernon Fire Rescue will use a standard deployment model that is typical of a composite fire department where career and volunteer firefighters will work together to continue to keep our community safe,” said Green.