When we first moved to Vernon 13 years ago, we were told the property we bought was serviced by a volunteer fire hall. At first, we were both a bit skeptical about the level of protection we would be afforded but late events vindicated our choice.
Late on a dry day in August in 2004, one of our younger neighbours attempted to weed the garden close to her cedar clad house using a tiger torch This course of action met with predictable results.
The main fire truck took little time in arriving and setting up. Then, the most amazing thing happened. Firefighters, seemingly appeared out of thin air. The blaze was quickly extinguished and events returned to the normal Sunset Properties pace.
I was intrigued by the events I witnessed, and started to ask questions about how this little fire department worked.
First of all, I found it was crewed by locals that had received a lot of training in fire protection. Although, I’m certain they could have and, would have fought a fire in Vernon, their main considerations were the distinct threats that faced the Landing. To this end, they were specially equipped. Not only did they have the usual kit of most fire departments, but they also had material and expertise for fighting fires in the interface and the lakefront.
Unique equipment such as a water-pumping fireboat provided protection to lakeside properties and evacuation potential as well. A large 4X4 truck was optimally equipped to work with Forestry in interface fires.
Not only that, but we paid less than urban Vernon for this five-star protection.
Later, we were forced by council, to pay the same rates as the rest of Vernon – fairness was suggested!, But who cared, we had the best little fire service in the Okanagan and we could share, Later I found out, as an elected officer of the Okanagan Landing and District Association, that the gang at the fire hall was the heart and soul of the community as well. They helped maintain Paddlewheel Park and the hall, and endowed the local elementary school with scholarships and educational equipment.
Then, disaster in an in-camera vote. The fire hall was turned over to the urban Vernon Fire Department.
However, we were always confident that we would get a rough equivalency to what we had had before in terms of fire protection. So now, if what Mr. Phillips’ assertions are true, and I have no reason to doubt them, we are left with much less protection than we started with.
To the council, I would recommend a re-appraisal of your decision. November, fast approaches and the right thing to do presents itself now.
By the way, I asked a former Vernon councillor if the idea of disbandment of the Okanagan Landing Fire Department had come up before. He said yes, but former councils thought that when people bought in the Landing, they understood what their level of fire protection was, and they would have to live with it.
His reasoning was that if Vernon took on fire protection in the Landing, they would have to make it equal or better to the best they could receive in Vernon itself.
This would mean a full-time, adequately staffed hall. Anything less than this would more than likely attract lawsuits by either the Okanagan Landing residents or their insurance companies should large claims occur.
It’s now past the time to do the right thing. Let’s get our volunteers back.