The Mill Bay fire department will be looking to the public for input into the possibility of hiring paid fire fighters for the department at it’s AGM on April 26 at Mill Bay Hall #1 at 2675 Lodge Pole Rd. at 7 p.m. Pictured is the department’s fire chief Ron Beck, left, and David Slade, chairman of the board. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Lack of volunteers leads to Mill Bay fire department proposal for paid staff

Lack of volunters leads to safety concerns

The loss of volunteers to fill the staffing needs at the Mill Bay fire department has led to calls for full-time and paid firefighters.

David Slade, chairman of the board at the fire department, said the ongoing problem of struggling to maintain a full complement of firefighters has forced the department to a significant crossroad.

He said that despite spending close to $10,000 and many hours on a focused multi-pronged and multi-media recruitment drive in 2017, the department was unable to increase its numbers.

“Our current reality is that during the week, from Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., we rarely have more than four members available to respond to an emergency, and on some days we are down to only two,” Slade said.

“Two firefighters are not enough to operate a fire truck at any kind of significant event or fire, so we are frequently faced with having to call our neighbouring fire departments asking for additional personnel to bolster our crews. Our neighbouring departments are also volunteers, which means that they sometimes struggle to meet their own emergencies, making it difficult to send their resources out of area to assist others.”

RELATED STORY: MESACHIE FIRE DEPARTMENT UP AND RUNNING

Slade said that last year, the Mill Bay fire department, which is in an independent fire protection district funded by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, responded to more than 390 calls in 2017, attended dozens of community events and trained to the same level as required for career firefighters in paid departments.

He said that its members are overworked and at risk of burnout, while the Mill Bay area is being under served due to the shortage of individuals willing to accept the challenge of being a volunteer firefighter.

“The crossroads that we face is to carry on with business as usual, knowing that the day will come when we will have a major fire or other emergency where our lack of human resources results in serious loss of property, or much worse, loss of life; or move to a ‘composite’ department, where we would have four or five full-time, daytime paid firefighters working Monday to Friday who would be supported by a team of volunteers who would be available to respond on weekends and evenings,” Slade said.

“As a department, we believe we need to take this step but we know it will come with significant challenges and significant expenses.”

Slade said that in consultation with the province, the department has determined that adding $250,000 to its annual budget would cover the cost of wages and benefits for a four-person team of fully trained, qualified firefighters and first responders, and would add $75 per year to the property tax on a $500,000 residential property.

He said the issue will be discussed at the department’s AGM on April 26 at Mill Bay Hall #1 at 2675 Lodge Pole Rd. at 7 p.m. and the public is welcome to attend to ask questions and participate in discussions.

“The ministry has instructed us that it’s up to the board to make a final decision, but we must put the question to the local taxpayers before we can get authorization to proceed,” Slade said.

“The best-case scenario is that the room at the AGM will fill up with volunteers and take care of this problem without the added expense to taxpayers,” he said.

A statement from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing acknowledged that in some rural areas with small populations, it may be difficult to staff volunteer fire departments.

“Improvement districts have broad authority to deliver services within their scope providing they also meet provincial fire safety standards,” the statement said.

“This includes scheduling and remuneration of staff. Improvement districts are self-financing entities and may need to increase taxes to achieve their staffing goals.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Caps bow out after back-to-back overtime losses

Wenatchee Wild eliminate Cowichan from playoffs

Cowichan-Malahat-Langford constituents on board with national clean energy plan

Energy systems in Canada are currently responsible for 80 per cent of the country’s GHGs

Roundabout plans at River Road in Chemainus moving forward

Land issues still being resolved before details revealed to the public

VIDEO: Buckman Coe, Tonye stun audience with great show at Duncan Showroom

Emotional performances, great music lift Thursday night audience

VIDEO: The ‘most cosmopolitan’ of butterflies could migrate to B.C.

The painted lady butterfly will likely arrive this summer from Southern California

Inspirational Vancouver Island youngster dies after battle with brain cancer

Kaiden Finley ‘was seriously the strongest 11-year-old’

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

Indecent caller handed 18-month conditional sentence

Vancouver Island man pleaded guilty to making indecent phone and video calls to women across B.C.

Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court

Wilson-Raybould said Monday “there was no conflict between the PM and myself”

First Nations public art piece stolen in Nanaimo

Spindle Whorl went missing over the weekend, according to Nanaimo RCMP

Father-son duo at B.C. Children’s Hospital helps new dads fight depression

The pair teamed up to introduce the only known research-based mindfulness workshop for new dads

Mexican restaurant in B.C. told to take down Mexican flag

General manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill in White Rock: ‘I’ve never heard of anything like this’

B.C. NDP moves to provide tax credits, tax cut for LNG Canada

Provincial sales tax break of $596 million repayable after construction

Most Read