A request for fire protection, in an area where three people recently died in a house blaze, has been denied.
Vernon council voted 6-1 in favour of a staff recommendation to decline an RDNO request to offer fire service to Electoral Area B.
The Commonage area is a stretch of approximately 60 houses and outbuildings, and under 3,000 acres of Crown Land and First Nations Land surrounding Okanagan Lake. It is also the same region where three people were killed in a house fire on March 6.
Vernon Fire Rescue Services chief David Lind told council service agreements work really well in areas where it doesn’t compromise the city’s resources or stretches it too thin.
“This area ends up being at the far end of our response area which, quite frankly, is challenging today, let alone adding more complexity or difficulty to that,” said Lind. “Consider the City of Vernon response area for a minute. Take Canadian Lakeview Estates. You’re out on a call, and now we’re off to Predator Ridge. Or we’re in Blue Jay (subdivision), and get a call to the Foothills. We have a very large footprint and it’s not easy to move around.
“We should look at service agreements when we’re in a position to provide good quality service that’s reliable.”
Coun. Akbal Mund had Lind confirm that the issue can be addressed further down the road when the city has a full complement of firefighters. Vernon council approved four new firefighters in March, and Mund said more will likely be added in 2024.
“I want to make sure the general public understands we’re not refusing this because we don’t want to do it. We just don’t have the staff to do it,” said Mund.
Coun. Teresa Durning was the lone member opposed to the recommendation, saying she advocated for staffing Station No. 3 at Predator Ridge when she ran to retain her council seat. Having this request come before council, she said, was stressful for her.
“I want the pressure to continue to be on for us to address this in a timely fashion,” said Durning. “In my opinion, if I agree with the recommendation it will reduce the pressure on us to build this and bolster our capacity in the city with our fire coverage.”
Back on March 13, council received a letter from Bob Fleming, the director of Electoral Area B, requesting fire protection to the area, on behalf of the RDNO.
Geographic Information System (GIS) technology was used to map out response times to the area, from the three North Okanagan fire districts. Station 3, in Predator Ridge, was shown by GIS to have the quickest response time, within 10 minutes. However, Station 3 does not have full-time staffing, which poses an issue with Vernon Fire Rescue not providing timely service.
“The potential revenue collected from an agreement for providing fire protection in Area B would not be adequate to resource full-time staffing for Station 3,” the memorandum states.