Mayor outlines next steps for extension of Midway fire department to rural properties

Midway Mayor Randy Kappes and fire chief Walt Osellame updated Kettle Valley and Rock Creek residents on status of fire protection.

Midway Mayor Randy Kappes told the public meeting it is his hope that the extension of fi re protection by MVFD to rural properties happens “sooner rather than later”.

This is Fire Prevention Week. What better time for a public meeting of those interested in establishing fire protection in the Kettle Valley/Rock Creek area?

The Monday night meeting at West Boundary Elementary drew between 60 and 70 people who came to hear Midway Mayor Randy Kappes and village fire chief Walter Osellame update the public on the expansion of service proposal and answer their questions.

The mayor stressed that now is the time for all those interested in reviewing the agreement being drafted to make sure they are on the mailing list at the village office (250-449-2222).

Kappes said that council supports the formation of the service. “They have passed a motion to collect the information and prepare the agreement for approval. I spoke to council before I came out here tonight and they reiterated that the majority of council supports this project.”

Kappes said some advantages of the proposed expansion of service area for the Midway Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) were:

• It would not be mandatory for everyone.

• There are lower start-up costs. The need for duplication of equipment is cut and a building is not immediately needed. The service would be an extension of the existing, recognized MVFD.

• Training costs are reduced because Osellame is the coordinator for the fire training centre at the College of the Rockies.

• Shared services makes for more stability—more manpower in the rural area helps bolster the number of firefighters ready to respond within the village.

• It can be put in place quicker than going through another referendum process.

• Lower fire insurance costs for subscribers to the service for those who would qualify for semi-protected status—within 26 kilometers of the Midway fire hall, roughly described as to the eastern boundary of Johnstone Creek Park on Hwy 3 and to Kettle River Park on Hwy 33.

Osellame said they currently have enough equipment and members to respond and put water or foam on a fire.

The number of members on the Midway crew has more than doubled over the last year. Some Area E residents joined in May 2012 and the rest volunteered in January. The department holds weekly two-hour practices and the occasional weekend.

They are being trained in both municipal and rural response protocols (with and without access to hydrants).

Osellame said there is a need for more volunteers, particularly people available during the day and those with a class three driver’s license.

He said the fire department is prepared to carry out comprehensive fire education and prevention programs in the community, providing tips on how to keep your home fire safe. “The department has fire prevention as a goal. We want you to be safe.”

He said each property that signs up for the service would be visited so that an individualized response plan could be developed that would detail where and how to set up equipment and identify hazardous materials that may be stored there.

The audience was told that, depending on their insurer, they could expect savings of up to 60 per cent on premiums if they moved from unprotected to semi-protected status.

The fire chief cautioned that the fire department would only be dispatched to those properties that signed an agreement.

“If your neighbour is not in, then we can’t respond to their property,” explained Osellame. “Though we can show up to prevent it from spreading to a property owner who subscribes to the service.”

Kappes said to-date the approximately $26,576.29 has been spent on the project. Grants and donations covered $10,200 of that; meaning the village has invested $16,376.29 so far.

Kappes said that would need to be recovered. He suggested a multi-year agreement so these costs would be spread over several years.

Kappes said a budget has been drawn up based on these startup costs and the average yearly budget for Midway fire department costs. “We’re expecting somewhere between the $45,000 to 50,000 range annual budgets. So if we have 100 subscribers that works out to $450 or 500 per year. If more signed on that price would go down.”

Two funding options were discussed: by parcel or an assessment on improvements. Property owner Vlodko Barchuk said he favors the charge per parcel. “Does it cost more for you to come fight my fire just because I have a large home? He said basing the cost on value of improvements would mean he would have to pay more for the same service— though he made a suggestion later endorsed by a show of hands—that there be different rates for residential vs. business, commercial and industrial properties.

“Basically we are down to drafting the contract, which relies on the number of people interested so we can put proper costs in,” said Kappes. He identified the next steps as:

• Get a solid idea of the number of properties that would be seriously interested in reviewing the agreement. The cost will rise or fall depending on how many subscribe.

• Finish refining those costs and rates, make sure we have included all of the equipment that is going to be necessary, make sure that reserves are established to cover future costs.

• Lastly, prepare a draft agreement, which can be agreed upon by all those involved.

“When will this happen?” asked Kappes. “Short answer I can’t tell you, but I would very much like to see it happen sooner rather than later.”

Les Jackman asked that subscribers be given an annual statement from the village and that there be an annual rate review based on the number of subscribers.

Barchuk asked the mayor to post a biweekly or monthly notice in the paper of the goals established for the implementation and an update of progress toward them. “That would be really good for the morale of our guys.”

On behalf of the Kettle River Lions, Les Jackman announced that the service club was successful in obtaining a $2,000 gaming grant for the purchase of equipment for the fire department.

Osellame said he and the members of the fire department are prepared to answer questions and Kappes closed the meeting by telling everyone he is also available at 250-449-8252.