Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, is recommending that a new assistant fire chief be hired to help deal with the municipality’s growing number of annual fire inspections. (File photo)

North Cowichan mulls hiring new assistant fire chief

New position meant to deal with increased fire inspection demands

A recommendation for North Cowichan to hire a full-time assistant fire chief in 2020 to help deal with the growing number of required fire inspections in the municipality was met with skepticism at the council meeting on Dec. 18.

After a discussion on the issue, council decided to direct staff to prepare a report which will outline options for cost recovery for the new position, and provide more clarification and analysis of what’s required.

In a staff report, Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, said the municipality is in the process of establishing a regular system of fire inspections of hotels and public buildings as mandated by the province, and that more than 1,700 fire inspections will be required to be completed every year.

He said one fire inspector can complete approximately 500 inspections annually, and that doesn’t take into account the necessary re-inspections or follow up with non-compliant businesses.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN TO HIRE ENVIRONMENTALIST SPECIALIST

Drakeley said that currently, North Cowichan has one CUPE position that is 40 per cent fire inspector and 60 per cent bylaw enforcement officer.

He said with the current level of bylaw enforcement and the increased demands for enforcement related to the opioid/homeless crisis, there is no capacity to do other than minimal fire and safety inspections.

“Non compliance with the Fire Services Act leaves the municipality open to liability for damage, injury or death in the event of a fire that may have been prevented with a regular system of fire inspections,” Drakeley said.

Coun. Rob Douglas pointed out that North Cowichan has hired a lot of new staff over the last two years.

“While that’s a good thing as the municipality is better able to deliver services, my concern is whether we can sustain that rate of hiring,” he said.

RELATED STORY: NEW CRIME ANALYST POSITION PROPOSED FOR NORTH COWICHAN/DUNCAN RCMP

“I don’t think we can with the current tax base. We should look at existing resources and work with what we have. We must consider the possible legal costs of the [threatened lawsuit from the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit] and the projected five per cent tax increase in 2020, which is way out of whack from recent years due partly to the financing for the new RCMP building. I’m hesitant to add another position.”

RELATED STORY: NEW NORTH COWICHAN/DUNCAN RCMP BUILDING ESTIMATED TO COST $40 MILLION

Coun. Christopher Justice asked staff if any of the current firefighters in North Cowichan would be interested in taking more training to cover fire inspections, or if fire inspection fees could be charged to cover the costs.

CAO Ted Swabey responded that the municipality’s firefighters are paid-on-call and are engaged in other work, so it would be difficult for them to take on those responsibilities.

He said the issue of charging fees is something that could be looked at, but hiring a new assistant fire chief would make a “bigger dent” in the required work.

“Staff are already stressed to the max,” Swabey said.

Coun. Tek Manhas said that for the owners of many commercial buildings, fire inspections are a safety issue so a number of them have them inspected themselves.

Finance manager Mark Frame said some businesses do take on the task of conducting their own fire inspections, but the municipality is still responsible to ensure that they are done, and done correctly.

The staff report on the issue is expected in the new year.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alistair MacGregor column: Responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic

This crisis has shown us just how many Canadians struggle every day to pay the bills

Second vehicle from Crofton Geo-Tech theft recovered

Supervisor at Crofton operation finds it parked at Chemainus campground

Duncan man asks community to donate RVs to essential workers in need of quarantine

Ryan Oakley creates a Facebook group to help coordinate the effort

RCMP there for the public during COVID-19 crisis, says B.C.’s assistant commissioner

Dwyane McDonald said the RCMP are working closely with local governments and health officials

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

Most Read