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Columbia Shuswap Regional District urges province to take lead on road rescue services

Service gaps in rural areas compromising safety and well-being of motorists
The Eagle Valley Rescue Society is one of the groups currently providing road rescue services within the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. (Eagle Valley Rescue Society/Facebook photo)

Letters of gratitude were shared with organizations that provide road rescue services in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

Those letters, from the regional district itself, were sent to the Village of Chase Fire Department, the Salmon Arm Rescue Unit, the Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department, the City of Vernon Fire Department, the Eagle Valley Rescue Society, the City of Revelstoke Fire Rescue, and the Town of Golden Fire Department.

Signed by Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board chair Kevin Flynn, the letters state the services provided by these organizations have not gone unnoticed, and that the regional district is grateful for the for the life-saving services provided.

“Road rescue, being an incredibly important specialized service, is a critical service, especially in rural areas of the province,” reads the letter to the Salmon Arm Rescue Unit. “The CSRD is aware that coverage gaps in the region pose significant challenges and compromise the safety of motorists travelling roads and highways in B.C.

We recognize the immeasurable value of what you do. The professional services you provide to help keep travellers safe and reduce the trauma and long-lasting impact of motor-vehicle collisions are deeply appreciated.”

At their Jan. 12 meeting, CSRD electoral area directors received a report from protective services team leader Derek Sutherland regarding road rescue services. He explained there are currently two rescue societies and two fire departments (Revelstoke and Golden) providing road rescue services within the regional district’s boundaries, and two fire departments outside the CSRD (Vernon and Chase) that service areas within the regional district.

“Portions of Electoral Area D are serviced by Vernon Fire and Electoral Areas F and G are primarily serviced by Chase Fire,” wrote Sutherland in his report. “These areas are identified as gaps because of larger-than-adequate response times.”

Sutherland’s report referenced a 2014 road rescue feasibility study which found there is no legislative requirement for any governing body to provide road rescue services, though there is still need for these services.

“Local governments throughout B.C. have long been critical of the provincial government for not taking full responsibility for road rescue,” said Sutherland, noting the province does provide some financial support – $346 per hour for road rescue apparatus that responds to a call. This does not cover fire suppression apparatus, support vehicles such as traffic control/protection units, command units, training or stress supports.

Along with the letters of gratitude, the agenda for the Feb. 16 CSRD board meeting includes a copy of a letter from the regional district, addressed to B.C.’s public safety minister and solicitor general, Mike Farnworth. In the letter, the CSRD notes numerous road rescue services provide critical services daily in the province, and that those services can be the difference between life and death. Identified “service gaps” in rural areas pose “significant challenges and compromise the safety and well-being of motorists travelling on roads and highways in B.C.”

The CSRD calls these gaps a safety risk, and asks the ministry to make this issue a priority and “take a leading role in the provision and support of rural road rescue in the province.”

Read more: CSRD looks to fill gaps in road rescue services in North Okanagan-Shuswap

Read more: Beef on a Bun fundraiser to help keep Salmon Arm Road Rescue on the road
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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