Firefighters

Richard Rolke raised many good points in his article July 23.

Did the head of the firefighters’ union really mean that he, if in charge, would stop extinguishing a structural fire if he wasn’t relieved in 10 minutes? Stunning. Just how many firefighters does it take to keep us safe? Is what we pay for fire protection in any way proportional to the efficiency of the fire service? How do we quantify the risk in Vernon, and its rural environs?

Why does Coldstream, a predominantly residential municipality, have volunteer halls and not Vernon?

The latest statistical information regarding Vernon Fire Rescue Services appears in the 2016 Vernon annual report, which is available online. The highlights of 2016 include for the most part, a short list of accomplishments.

Now if high wages confer a benefit in response to good firefighting, we in Vernon are truly blessed. Last year, fire chief Keith Green was the second highest paid city employee, earning $142,426 before expenses.

Even Brent Bond, president of the Vernon Professional Firefighters Association, and presumably funded by his organization, made more than $127,000 from the City of Vernon, excluding expenses.

The above represents only today’s, cold, hard financial facts. If indeed we acted on Mr. Bonds advice and increased our fire department staffing by 10 extra firefighters, we would be adding another $1 million to the city’s budget. To what end?

So much for facts. How about some ideas?

Get out of our current collective agreement with the Vernon Professional Firefighters Association. Simply put, we can’t afford them. This will be difficult and perhaps financially painful in the short run, but worth looking into.

Shorten shifts from the current long work weeks and many days off. Short shifting really reduces overtime. I know about this as a former air traffic controller. Five-on and four-offs were a huge money maker for operational employees.

Always have three to four volunteers on hot standby, with dedicated pagers and call them before the expensive, full-time staff. This is cheaper, and probably a good training opportunity for junior staff as well. Besides, if you wait for full-time staff to call back and confirm before calling standbys, you have wasted a lot of time, and time as Mr. Bond said, is of the essence.

Forge even closer alliances with BX, Coldstream and Armstrong, not to mention Lake Country. Think of what Lake Country could do for Predator Ridge? Keep them all in the picture and don’t be bashful about calling them out.

For halls like Okanagan Landing, staff them with local volunteers. It seems to work for everyone else in the area, Even if the volunteers hang around the hall to work on their cars or socialize, they are in the right place when problems do occur.

There is no doubt that we would all be safer with a policeman — current cost $170,000 per person and climbing — or a firefighter on each corner, but can we afford it?

Bill Dunsmore

Vernon