The Mesachie Lake Volunteer Fire Department has resumed operations as of Feb. 2.
Jon Lefebure, chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said Kevin Smith, a former captain with the fire department, has stepped forward to lead the department as fire chief as a temporary measure.
“Safety remains our top priority for our firefighters and our community,” Lefebure said.
“Following discussions with the firefighters regarding moving forward and resuming operations, we have been able to bring in new leadership to restart fire department operations while a third-party review is conducted.”
Lefebure said the CVRD appreciates the concerns expressed by area residents, the suggestions raised by Mesachie Lake firefighters, and the support of both the Honeymoon Bay Volunteer Fire Department and the Lake Cowichan Volunteer Fire Department at this time.
He said the third-party review is expected to be completed in the spring with a report being provided to the CVRD’s board of directors for its consideration.
But former chief Gary Eve, who, along with former deputy chief Owen Robertson received letters from the CVRD stating their positions have been terminated without explanation, said Smith was never a chief at the department and is not up to date with current training standards.
“I congratulate him for stepping forward because this is not an easy thing to step into,” he said.
“But if the CVRD’s issue is with safety, than the new chief hasn’t had any relevant training for the past five years.”
The CVRD recently announced that the Mesachie Lake fire department would be put on an “operational pause” as of Jan. 24.
The CVRD said in a press release that the purpose of the pause is to allow an independent consultant to conduct a third-party review of the department.
The review will include an assessment of the department’s equipment, building, and operations to ensure safety for Mesachie Lake residents, now and into the future, according to the release.
Many in the Mesachie Lake area complained about the issue and raised safety concerns, but Lefebure said moves to quickly reopen the fire department were not directly related to that.