Spallumcheen Mayor Janice Brown (left)

Spallumcheen Mayor Janice Brown (left)

Fire service changes on tap

Efforts are underway to ensure fire protection meets the needs of Armstrong and Spallumcheen in the future

Efforts are underway to ensure fire protection meets the needs of Armstrong and Spallumcheen in the future.

The two municipalities are proceeding with a number of initiatives to maintain the effectiveness of the fire service, including a possible expansion of the fire hall equipment bays and other facilities.

“Parts of the hall don’t meet code,” said Chris Pieper, Armstrong mayor, of the 35-year-old building.

It’s a tight squeeze to get all of the vehicles inside in the bays and there is insufficient training space.

Hiring a second paid, full-time employee for the largely volunteer operation is also being explored.

“There’s a lot more documentation and accountability for insurance companies. The fire code regulations are onerous on a volunteer department,” said Pieper.

Presently, the only full-time employee is a fire inspector and it hasn’t been decided what duties the second position would be but possibly clerical.

“We have shortfalls with management and administration time,” said Ian Cumming, volunteer fire chief.

Pieper admits adding to the payroll would come at a cost for taxpayers.

“A paid employee impacts the bottom line. No one will do it for free,” he said.

Both municipalities pay towards the fire department’s budget ($525,000 in 2014) and for fire inspection ($113,000).

The timeline for possibly expanding the fire hall or hiring staff will be discussed during the 2015 budget process.

Approval has also been given to a fire service governance committee. It will have two representatives from each council and they will oversee and provide direction on recommended actions included in the recent fire services review.

“We want to fine tune the process so we’re not dealing with two whole councils,” said Janice Brown, Spallumcheen mayor.

A consulting firm, Dave Mitchell and Associates, will provide assistance to implement recommendations related to governance, stagging and training.

There are currently 38 volunteer firefighters and they respond to about 190 calls a year.