Okanagan Landing firefighters have raised the white flag, and ultimately that makes sense.
No matter how much more lobbying went on, the City of Vernon wasn’t going to renew a service contract with the volunteer association.
However, the retirement of most of the Landing firefighters doesn’t mean this is the end of the matter.
Because of the current contract ending Feb. 1, Okanagan Landing residents will be experiencing a change in firefighting service, whether real or perceived. To prevent any potential complaints or lingering hardships, the city needs to hold an information session for residents to explain how the new management model — based out of the Vernon fire hall — will operate.
Among the details that can be provided are the number of Landing firefighters that have decided to participate under the new structure and the potential role of unionized firefighters at the Landing station.
Residents may question if there is a change in response times, how the training of volunteer firefighters may evolve and the ability to fight blazes from the lake as the fire boat is owned by the Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association and not the city.
City officials may be reluctant to hold a meeting, afraid that it will be dominated by the controversy over the contract cancellation. Obviously details behind council’s decision cannot be provided because of confidentiality legislation, but the prospect of public resentment shouldn’t prevent the city from being transparent and providing information about how the new model will function.
And ultimately, city officials must remember that it’s the residents of Vernon that they answer to.
—The Morning Star