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Peace River Regional District directors voted to authorize the use of Charlie Lake Fire Department Tender 1 to the Province in order to support wildfire fighting efforts in the 2021 fire season. The decision came at their July 22 board meeting, with directors adding the stipulation that conversations regarding mutiual aid and local need happen first before fully releasing the tender.

On July 5, the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner sent an urgent request out to all fire departments for tender (water tankers) with pump and roll capabilities needed to fight wildfires.

Charlie Lake’s Tender 1 is a 1,500 gallon unit and most suited for the job.

Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead says the PRRD would benefit from a regional strategy, noting mutual aid agreements already exist among the region’s fire departments.

“We get these requests and it’s in the time of an emergency, we all try to be there in any way possible to help support it, but I really believe we need to have a regional strategy,” said Bumstead, noting his concern is that local municipalities should have a strong understanding of their capacities.

“Let’s make sure we have a regional discussion to identify and understand our capacities.”

Fort St John Mayor Lori Ackerman says the fire-fighting wage of $88 is not enough to cover what’s needed.

“Honestly, 88 dollars is not going to be enough to cover the backup that’s needed as fire fighters go out. There’s a lot of mutual aid agreements with paid backup that this won’t even start to cover,” she said.

“So I’m a little concerned that I’m not seeing where they would be assessing or having conversations with mutual aid partners before the deployment is considered.”

She added the motion should only be for the 2021 fire season.

“I think it should go no further until we have a regional plan,” said Ackerman.

PRRD Chair Brad Sperling says the province already has the power to utilize what they need for forest fires in an emergency.

“Under legislation, if they want that piece of equipment, and it’s an emergency, they do have the right to request it,” he said, noting the tender in question is the most suitable for fighting forest fires.

Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser says the best solution is consult with all the municipal fire chiefs.

“It seems to me this regional approach would be as simple as getting all the chiefs together and talking about what a notification and discussion would look like to inform your decision – any of our decisions to send somebody off,” he said.

Electoral Area D Director Leonard Hiebert says it could be added as a clause within the mutual aid agreements.

“It doesn’t have to be something complicated – it’s as simple as an email or phone call and it can all be done I feel within a few minutes to get done. But we need to have that in place and I think setting up that in place wouldn’t take long either,” said Hiebert.

Sperling added it should be done before fire season starts, noting the request came late this year.

“If we’re going to do that, it should be early spring – before fire season starts,” he said.

By: Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative
Source: Alaska Highway News

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