Rural fire departments face some new challenges in the coming months.
The TNRD has received letters from several volunteer departments asking the regional district to take them over due to increasing costs, and concerns about resources.
Another worry is the issue of access to private property in event of a fire. It’s come to light that volunteer departments don’t have an automatic right to go on private premises.
It was thought that the TNRD could pass a bylaw giving them the right to do so, and I’d hoped we could do that quickly. However, at a committee of the whole meeting on Friday, the board received legal advice that the TNRD can’t cover non-TNRD-operated departments with a bylaw.
That leaves it to the individual departments to obtain permission from each property owner within their service areas, an inconvenient but not impossible task that could be done through letters of assent.
TNRD staff will be discussing solutions with the fire departments with respect both to the private property issue and the various requests for TNRD to take over operations.
The McLure department in Area P was one of those raising concerns, though at this point it hasn’t requested that the TNRD take over administration. McLure Volunteer Firefighters and Recreation Society president Paula Cousins has asked for a fire protection service review for all fire departments within TNRD before deciding.
Obviously, volunteer fire departments are tremendously important to the communities they serve, and these new concerns need to be dealt with as soon as possible.