Gear to aid firefighters in off-road emergencies

Getting to those in need quickly is the impetus behind North Cowichan council opting to purchase two off-road vehicles

Getting to those in need quickly is the impetus behind North Cowichan council opting to purchase two off-road vehicles for its fire departments after a request from South End fire chief Scott Henning and his colleagues.

“It is not uncommon for the fire department to be called into remote areas for public assistance,” Henning wrote in a report to staff. “These demands on fire fighters are strenuous with some hikes being as far as five or more kilometres up trails and mountain areas while carrying approximately 100 pounds of gear.” And once they get to the patient, they need to haul them back out again, too.

North Cowichan CAO Dave Devana said other jurisdictions have off-road vehicles for that purpose but staff were looking into their prevalence to give council a good understanding before it’s time to decide.

It’s a sign of the times, he said, with more and more people using the region’s outdoor amenities.

“North Cowichan is encouraging their people to go into the forest. we’re approving trails, we’re building bike trails… the more we encourage people to go in, the more they go in and then they get lost or they get hurt,” Devana said. “The fire department, what they’re finding is that people are getting farther into these forests and they can’t get there with our regular vehicles.”

Council decided Wednesday that come budget time, they’ll consider the purchase of two machines at a cost of about $33,000 plus GST, each.

Coun. Tom Walker said it’s a good investment, and one that would protect the department’s more expensive gear.

“Human nature is if you’ve got somebody hurt or injured at the end of the road, or a lost child, you’re going to take a fire truck just as far as you can,” Walker said. “I think one of the most valuable and effective reasons for doing this is it stops bashing the fire truck just trying to get that extra hundred yards up the road. I’d sooner see a $20,000 or $30,000 machine going up scratching its way through the bush than a half-a-million dollar fire truck.”

Walker noted he hoped they’d find a way to pay for it out of the existing emergency vehicle maintenance and replacement fund and not from elsewhere in the budget.

“I just want to give the rest of council the heads up that when it comes to budget time I’ll be asking the question, why can’t it come from the equipment fund that we fund all along,” Walker said. “If we can buy a half-a-million dollar fire truck I’m hoping that we could find the $33,000 in there or whatever it is.”

Devana said should council opt to purchase the off-road vehicles, they would need a plan to finance maintenance and eventual replacement.

It’s likely one would be stationed at the Chemainus fire hall and the other at the south end hall, though they’d be available to the municipality’s other two halls.