Hot under the collar

The city's mayor was heated after a regional fire review report fell short of expectations.

A regional fire service review intended to recommend efficiencies in delivering the service has instead has called for expansion of manpower, and the city’s mayor is hot under the collar.

After the regional district released its Fire Service Review of Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue last week to its participating members, Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom threw cold water on the paper.

In calling for a fire service review last year, the City of Rossland was concerned about the rising bill the city was receiving for fire service, now pegged at around $600,000.

Instead, the $40,000 report recommended adding one career staff member to each of the regional district’s departments, including Company One in Rossland.

As well, there was no mention of efficiencies that could be gained within the regional and municipal departments, a fact that was not lost on Granstrom.

“I asked about efficiencies and the report says to hire more people and build a new training centre,” Granstrom told the Trail Times. “Rossland is looking for ways to save.”

According to the report, a 3.5 per cent increase in regional district taxes in 2013 meant Trail paid over $1.3 million, or almost 44 per cent of the $3.06 million fire service budget.

Area B paid $302,000 to the fire service; Warfield, $139,600; Montrose, $90,600; Fruitvale $167,000 and Area A, $522,600.

The review concluded the fire service functioned well and provided the community with sound and cost effective service.

Granstrom said the resolution sent to the regional district asking for a review of how the regional fire service could make the service more cost effective was ignored.

“Did anyone even ask how we can better make use of our resources?” Granstrom said. “I say, ‘No,’ that wasn’t even addressed.”

David Mitchell and Associates, a B.C. company specializing in fire service analysis, spent 17 days in the area last summer to review operations and service delivery of the Kootenay Boundary Regional District Fire Rescue and its six fire halls.

Although the final 39 recommendations have yet to be prioritized, the team hit on an area of significant concern regarding the recruitment and retention of paid on-call firefighters; the need for a joint training centre; consideration of entering into a mutual aid agreement with Salmo; and clarification of mutual aid agreements with Castlegar and Teck Trail Operations.

Mitchell said increasing career staffing by one firefighter per shift and a full time training officer to support the department as a single unit would also be advisable.

The report noted that cost sharing is conceptually fair, six fire halls are required to provide coverage and fire service should continue as a single unit of staff and on-call firefighters.

— with files from the Trail Times


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