The fight to fund rural fire protection

Paul Lake fire truyckFor all the benefits of living in a rural area, there are some obvious compromises that have to be made. One of them is fire service.

Some rural communities have excellent fire protection, some have a little, and others have none.

Communities in Electoral Area P have been having a range of experiences with their fire protection service, or with their efforts to get it.

Whitecroft, for example, is fortunate to be close enough to Sun Peaks that an arrangement to receive protection from the Sun Peaks Fire Department made sense.

Earlier efforts to create a new service that included Heffley Lake homes were unsuccessful, and those homes remain without fire protection.

So does Evergreen just north of Heffley Creek. Several overtures have been made to the City of Kamloops to provide protection, and I recently discussed it again with the City and with Kamloops Fire Rescue without success — the City simply doesn’t feel it’s in a position to put an extra load on its fire department.

My “home” community of Black Pines is another one with no protection, and we feel it in our insurance premiums.

The McLure Fire Department, famed for its outstanding work in the 2003 wildfires, had to boost its tax requisition this year because of rising costs for equipment and training.

Paul Lake residents, who approved construction of a fire hall and establishment of a fire department a couple of years ago, have stepped back after reviewing costs.

And Pinantan, which decided against getting its own fire service funded by taxation through the TNRD, has established a community brigade.

Pritchard’s volunteer fire department will be in need of a newer truck in the not-too-distance future.

Cost is always an issue. For communities needing help getting off the ground with fire protection, or facing major new expenditures, federal gas tax funding seems tailor made. But under current criteria it’s not available.

Gas taxes can’t be put toward fire halls or fire equipment. That’s frustrating for communities that see gas tax funding going for recreation and other projects while they can’t access it for something as important as fire protection.

Regional districts feel their pain. The Southern Interior Local Government Association approved a resolution from the TNRD this spring that calls for the provincial government to “lobby the federal government to amend the Federal Gas Tax Agreement by adding fire protection to the list of eligible project categories that will allow fire protection service areas to access and utilize gas tax funding to construct fire halls and purchase firefighting equipment for the protection of their communities.”

Unfortunately, the criteria for gas tax funding are only reviewed every few years but surely fire protection needs to be high on the priority list the next time changes are made.

This column was written for the Sun Peaks Independent News.


One thought on “The fight to fund rural fire protection

  1. Thank you for this, Mel. As an Electoral Area Director (Area ‘D’) with the Cariboo Regional District and with 2 Independent Fire Departments in my Area, I sympathize with the TNRD and will be supporting this UBCM Resolution at the 2016 UBCM Convention. Many of my constituents agree with the sentiments expressed in this column


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