Rural fire response available July 1

The goal of having a fire department serving Kettle Valley and Rock Creek residents has been attained.

Midway Fire Chief Walter Osellame presents the case for rural fire response while Mayor Randy Kappes runs the computer PowerPoint at a public meeting last week in the pavilion.

Property owners in Kettle Valley and Rock Creek will have the opportunity to contract fire protection response beginning July 1. The details of the Fire Response Service Agreement were revealed at a meeting hosted by the Village of Midway and the Midway Volunteer Fire Department at the fairground pavilion on Tuesday, June 17.

Thirty-six people came out, plus a large contingent of volunteer firefighters. Over the course of the two-hour meeting, Midway Fire Chief Walter Osellame and Mayor Randy Kappes presented the case for the service.

Osellame noted it had taken three and a half years to get to this point. After the 2011 regional district fire services referendum had failed by a vote of 140 to 128, he approached council with the idea of offering a fire response service to the area on a contract basis.

He says this is an important win for the village too because having trained and equipped volunteer firefighters living in the nearby rural area will help fill the ranks of the village department in the event of a fire in the municipality.

The chief said the long-term vision would see full coverage for fire response along the Hwy 3 corridor from Osoyoos to Christina Lake.

The service area being offered here runs from Midway to the eastern edge of Johnstone Creek Park. “This is the area that will be recognized by insurance companies as the distance limit to where they will allow something to change the cost of your insurance,” Osellame explained.

A map prepared by the regional district identified the properties that could benefit from the fire response service if they choose to sign on. According to village administrator Penny Feist, there are 397 potential agreements within the service area. Prior to the meeting, 112 property owners had expressed an interest and asked the village to keep them informed.

The meeting was told that 911 operators will only dispatch firefighters to those properties under contract with the Village of Midway.

Training for the volunteer members is being provided free of charge by Osellame, who since 2004 has been a fire services training coordinator, instructor and evaluator at College of the Rockies.

Fire apparatus were parked out front of the pavilion. A 32,00-litre (850-gallon) pumper and a 12,000-litre (3,000-gallon) tender equipped with a 12,000-litre portatank were on display. Osellame said in the event of a serious fire another 3,800-litre (1,000-gallon) tender could be dispatched from Midway.

There are now 31 members on the Midway Volunteer Fire Department. These numbers are important on a volunteer department because not all of the firefighters would be available all the time.

A review of fire prevention practices would be available and a pre-incident response plan for each contracted property would be undertaken to ensure the response was planned and appropriate.

The equipment needs of the department were discussed. “Going from 18 members to more than 30 members meant more turn-out gear and radios were needed,” Osellame said.

A 2013 budget breakdown was provided. To date $19,662.98 has been spent. That was offset by a Regional District of Kootenay Boundary Area E grant-in-aid of $10,000 and $200 in donations. That leaves a balance of $9,462.98 to be recovered by the village, which is to be paid back to the village through the fire response service agreement annual fees.

The 2014 budget is set at $50,000. Agreement fees will recoup that amount. They will be charged on an annual flat rate and may vary from year to year depending on the needs of the fire department and the number of signed service agreements.

Property classification will be based on the assessment notice received in January of each year.

Rates for 2014 are set out as: residential $450 per year, commercial/business $650, industrial $1,500, utilities $1,500 and school $2,000.

“If I have a fire, is the insurance company going to be able to use this agreement against my claim?” asked Kettle Valley resident Lorne Schmaltz.

Kappes told him that the municipality’s lawyer had reviewed it, but it would be appropriate for property owners to submit it to their insurance company for review.

Budget accounts for the service will be kept separate from village revenue and audited annually. A list of equipment needs have been prioritized—both short and long-term. Osellame has been successful in finding equipment from other departments that has helped keep the costs down.

“A high priority is a place to house the vehicles,” the chief said, adding that talks are ongoing with the province to locate a piece of property for a fire hall.

Osellame also praised the work done by MLA Linda Larson and the Kettle River Lions in obtaining gaming grant funding. “I have had to work with politicians for years and years and here is a lady who when she says she is concerned about something and wants to do something about it—she’s not kidding.”

In closing Kappes told the meeting that the fire service being offered here differs from the earlier referendums. “Those who want to move ahead can, and those who don’t can stay behind.”

Feist told the Times on Tuesday morning that since the meeting many property owners have taken copies of the agreement for their insurance companies to review.

If you would like more information about the rural fire response service, contact the village at 250-449-2222.


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