Paid fire chief shot down

District denies Coldstream Fire Department pleas for paid fire chief

Efforts to gain a paid chief to oversee Coldstream’s fire departments have been doused.

The Coldstream Fire Department had been hoping to secure a single paid fire chief to administer both the Lavington and Coldstream halls.

“Coldstream put in for a paid chief because the executive feels that it is long overdue,” said Dave Sturgeon, Coldstream fire chief. “How does one person find the time to have a career, a family and put in at least 20 hours a week minimum and still never do the job 100 per cent?

“Right now with the duties of the chief you could easily do 60 hours a week at one hall and never be caught up.”

Along with the risks involved with the job on call and at practice, Sturgeon says the demanding workload can be overwhelming.

“I look after roughly $5.5 million in assets and 27 members. It’s a hard thing to do in your spare time and still have time to take courses to keep current in an ever-changing environment.”

But Mayor Jim Garlick says there’s a slim chance Coldstream’s request will evolve.

“This is something that has come up in the past,” said Garlick.

“And this is a problem a lot of departments are having.”

While he recognizes the demanding workload the chiefs take on, Garlick says a paid fire chief position isn’t viable for the community.

Lavington fire chief Terry Garrington also isn’t convinced that hiring one paid fire chief would address the concerns and could possibly cause more problems.

But he does agree with Sturgeon that workload for the chiefs can be consuming.

Sturgeon is confident a single paid chief would create efficiencies in both the departments as well as increasing community safety.

“I believe in the beginning that a paid chief might not appeal to the members but if you hire the right person for the job they could integrate the two halls together so that the members could train together and that would in turn make long term strategic planning easier,” said Sturgeon.

“All members would be on the same page.”

Currently both halls train and run in separate capacities. Instead of duplicating services, things like budgets and maintenance plans could be grouped into one category and cost-saving measures could be possible, said Sturgeon.

“Day time call outs could be attended by the full-time chief as our day time attendance is very weak due to most members working in Vernon or out of town,” Sturgeon adds.

“Things like fire prevention, inspection, and investigation could be done by the chief that is currently contracted out which in turn would make a more efficient fire department as a whole.”

Sturgeon hopes local decision-makers will keep an open mind to the request and consider the benefits a full-time paid chief could provide to the community.

“It is said that for every $1 put into fire prevention you save roughly $4 in damage caused by fire.”