As I watch the dedicated, hard-working members of the Okanagan Landing Fire Department come under constant attack I feel the need to speak up and point out some discrepancies with what the public is being told and what the actual truth is.
Two of the main reasons that our city’s leadership is focusing on for their decision to force the Okanagan Landing Firefighters to join the Vernon Volunteer Firefighters under the control of the union-run city fire hall are training issues and cost savings. Please allow me to share some thoughts on these two issues.
Within our membership we have professionals from many different walks of life that have spent over 30 years donating massive amounts of their time to keep the Okanagan Landing Fire Hall operating at a professional level. There is no way that it will be more cost effective to have city workers, paid by your tax dollars, do all the things that are currently done by volunteers that include but are not limited to: maintenance and upkeep on building, recruiting new members, handling requests from the public, training, purchasing, minor maintenance on apparatus, office management, janitorial duties, inventory tracking, event organizing.
In addition to the numerous things mentioned above, the city pays the Vernon Volunteer Association $307 per member per year to help fund the association and support its various endeavors. With this money, the Vernon volunteers do various public events and charity functions. The Okanagan Landing volunteers do the same type of events but fund it completely on their own by donating 100 per cent of any monies earned from practice and fundraising efforts. Had all of our 28 members decided to join the Vernon Volunteers, it would have resulted in a cost of $8,569 per year for the taxpayers, with absolutely nothing extra gained from that added expense.
If a city could operate a fire hall at a lower cost than volunteers, then wouldn’t every fire hall in North America be run by paid city staff?
To somehow think that this decision will result in the Landing Firefighters being better trained is more proof that some of our council members seem to be uneducated on this whole issue. I could fill an entire newspaper with all of our completed training certificates and qualifications but I will just point out that we would actually be doing less training if forced to operate under the Vernon model. Along with various online, weekend and extra unscheduled training, our members train or meet as an entire group every Tuesday, except one Tuesday off in December. This new model will have us come together as an entire group a maximum of three times per month. So aside from extra unscheduled training, we would be going from 51 scheduled training and meeting days, down to 36 under the Vernon model. How can you claim to be creating a higher trained unit by cutting training time by 30 per cent?
I think we can all agree that this entire issue has been handled incredibly poorly by the people who were hired or elected to make these types of decisions. The fact that it was done clouded by a veil of secrecy and not discussed openly and honestly should cause great alarm and mistrust in our city’s leadership.
In my opinion, this decision will ultimately result in much higher costs to the taxpayer and not much, if any, improvement to our fire and emergency services.
Okanagan Landing Volunteer Firefighters Association