Letter: Firefighters are highly trained

It was most disconcerting to see that this individual is unable to secure fire insurance for her home, writes Walt Osellame.

In last week’s Greenwood Council Report with the headline Homeowner asks for input, that Morgan relayed that her home is a “fire liability” because volunteer fire departments “are not well trained” made me sit up and take notice in a hurry.

It was most disconcerting to see that this individual is unable to secure fire insurance for her home, but when I read the apparent rationale from insurance agent(s) for the refusal of insurance, it was evident that I needed to submit a response.

A few points to consider:

1. Approximately 75-78 per cent of all fire departments in North America are NOT full-time career but rather volunteer fire departments. In our Zone 4 area (Kootenay-Boundary) there are only three full-time career departments out of 50 plus. The rest are volunteer.

2. All firefighters (career and volunteer) train to the SAME universal standard which is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard. It is an accredited standard that applies in all of North America and in many other parts of the world.

3. There are only currently two curricula available in North America which are vetted to the NFPA standards (Jones and Bartlett or IFSTA). All departments use one or the other but they are both accredited to the NFPA standard.

4. In B.C., ALL fire departments (career and Volunteer) are required to comply with the new firefighter standard playbook. All levels of the playbook are NFPA compliant.

5. Non-compliance with the training playbook requirements could result in loss of fire department status.

As the coordinator for fire services training with the College of the Rockies, I can affirm that fire departments DO in fact train to the standard and are well trained because they all have to be tested and assessed.

Volunteer firefighters write exams and have practical assessments done to ensure competency as do all career firefighters. Those results MUST be recorded and maintained for all members in their record of training files.

I consider the statement made by insurance agents regarding deficiency of training to be uninformed, unfounded and irresponsible.

It would be a travesty if readers believed this misinformation and bogus opinion to think that their trained volunteers were not competent. That is simply NOT true.

We have had the pleasure of working alongside Greenwood Fire Department members, and they are an excellent, devoted and competent group of firefighters who are trained and assessed, and want only to ensure someone is there to help their friends and neighbours in any way they can; as do we all.

I am not sure if Ms. Morgan has checked with local insurance providers in MIdway or even Grand Forks, but I would suggest you consult with them if you have not already.

I also suggest you report the agent or agents who made such a comment to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, as well as the Fire Underwriters Survey.

Your volunteer fire department members work hard on their own time with little or no compensation. They do it because they are community-minded and want to help people. It is important that we keep that at the forefront.

– Walt Osellame,

Midway Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief/LAFC