Okanagan Landing firefighters say they are being forced to retire.
It appears that most of the 30 volunteers will retire instead of accepting an invitation to join the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters Association and integrate into the Vernon department’s command structure.
“It’s a majority,” said Todd Montgomery, Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association president, who would not reveal the specific vote results taken Tuesday.
City council recently decided not to renew a fire service agreement with the Landing. The association, which was formed in 1975, has provided fire services under contract since Okanagan Landing was annexed into Vernon in 1993.
“We feel council made a narrow, one-sided decision. It’s a slap in the face to us,” Montgomery told The Morning Star.
City officials have stated integration of the departments is required to ensure training levels.
“It’s insulting because we’re trained to an ongoing level,” said Montgomery.
Another concern regards public safety and specifically the Aug. 14 grass fire at The Rise.
A release from the Landing association states that after the initial call, Vernon firefighters were dispatched to the blaze.
“After seeing the smoke, several Okanagan Landing firefighters headed to the Okanagan Landing fire station and waited 16 minutes and 58 seconds to be paged to the fire by Vernon dispatch while members of the public stopped and asked why the firefighters were not responding to the fire that spread quickly as the firefighters sat and watched,” states the release.
It goes on to say that Landing firefighters are not allowed to respond to a blaze unless their assistance is requested by Vernon, something that was automatic in previous years.
“A reason that was noted as to why many members will not join the VVFA is they cannot support a response model that puts the public at greater risk.”
Look for more details in Friday’s Morning Star.