Fire dept. in the money

MLA Linda Larson was instrumental in securing lottery dollars for fire fighting equipment that can respond to Rock Creek and Kettle Valley.

MLA Linda Larson is joined by Midway Mayor Randy Kappes

MLA Linda Larson is joined by Midway Mayor Randy Kappes

The stars are coming into alignment for the expansion of fire protection services by the Midway Volunteer Fire Department to surrounding rural areas with last week’s announcement that a lottery grant application sponsored by the Kettle River Lions has been approved. Also, on Monday night, Midway council gave approval to the contract that will be presented to property owners outside of the village.

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, MLA Linda Larson came to the Kettle Valley Golf Club to present a cheque for $65,000 to members of the Kettle River Lions, to be used for the purchase of equipment necessary to outfit the Midway Fire Department so rural fire response for Rock Creek and the Kettle Valley can become a reality.

The number of active duty volunteer fire fighters on the Midway department had fallen to dangerously low levels over the past decade. Meanwhile a number of residents of the community of Rock Creek and Kettle Valley had been trying for years to bring fire response services to their properties.

A solution was proposed whereby a number of Area E rural residents agreed to become volunteer Midway Fire Fighters. The village has trained them and will provide fire response services on a contract basis.

Funding for the necessary trucks, equipment and costs of operation and maintenance would have to be raised through “user annual contract fees” and fund raising efforts.

Last year, following the May provincial election, a meeting including Midway Mayor Randy Kappes, Regional District Director Bill Baird, Midway Fire Chief Osellame and newly elected MLA Linda Larson was convened. The agreement to bring together the combined collaborative efforts of these three levels of government was forged.

It was decided that the Lions would be asked to submit an application for a Community Grant from the BC Lotteries Commission.

In accepting the cheque Osellame said, “One of the things Larson said after she was elected was that she was really concerned about the safety and the integrity of the safety for the people who live in these rural areas and don’t have these responses. I have been involved with politicians for many years and so far I am impressed. You said you were concerned and you were going to do something about it and you did.”

“Larson played a huge role in supporting this application,” said Rock Creek resident Vlodko Barchuk who prepared the application. “The result was the presentation this past week of a cheque in the amount of $65,000 for expenditures made during 2013 and an assurance that our subsequent application for funds for 2014 would receive a favourable hearing.”

“It is communities that make things work,” Larson told the group. “When you are new you just do it. Nobody said you can’t do stuff like that so we did stuff like that. It takes volunteers – always volunteers. They are the ones who keep the community together.”

Barchuk told the Times that other communities assisted as well. “Over the past two years, our group has been able to secure, by donation or at significantly reduced cost, a fire tender truck, a water tanker truck and various additional equipment from a number of other fire departments and more is in the works. This equipment has been secured by the hard work and connections of Walt Osellame and Bill Baird,” he said.

Volunteer fire fighters from Rock Creek and Kettle Valley have been practising weekly for over a year and are close to being ready to provide services to the Village of Midway as well as to the new rural extension of service to Rock Creek and Kettle Valley.

“I want to thank Randy Kappes for his support. He has been excellent in terms of helping us out in more ways than one along with the support of council and the CAO,” said Osellame. “I also want to thank Bill Baird – he has been with me on this fire concept for a long time now, and especially the Lions Club members. There is no way this could happen without them.”

Funding for a rural fire hall continues, with the equipment currently being housed on private property in Kettle Valley.

Kappes said the next step will be presentation of the contract to those Kettle Valley and Rock Creek residents who have expressed an interest in the service. Rates are expected to be around $500 per year.