The Revelstoke Highway Rescue Society responds to a crash near Rogers Pass last summer. Council recently voted to merge the society into the fire department.

Council votes to merge highway rescue services with fire department

Revelstoke city council voted to integrate the Revelstoke Highway Rescue Services Society into the Revelstoke fire department.

Revelstoke city council voted to integrate the Revelstoke Highway Rescue Services Society into the Revelstoke fire department.

What that means is the fire department will now assume responsibility for many of the services offered by the volunteer-run highway rescue group but many of the volunteer workers will continue on serving as volunteers, minus much of the administrative work.

The decision came at a July 26 city council meeting.

In a report, Fire Chief Rob Girard recommended the amalgamation, which will mean many of the assets owned by the society will be transferred to the Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services. Girard said the administration side of the work had become too odious for the group.

“They want to perform the service; they don’t want to be managing the system,” Girard said. He added insurance issues were increasingly becoming a concern.

He said having trained fire personnel on scene would be an added plus. “I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “[The volunteers] are looking for direction and leadership at these calls.”

Coun. Chris Johnston was the sole dissenting vote. He was concerned the change meant the city was assuming responsibility for something that wasn’t their jurisdiction. The society currently provides road rescues services to areas outside of municipal boundaries and outside the city’s fire protection district. Johnston said it amounted to “downloading” of provincial services.

Girard said the service was “one of the few services that is actually cost recoverable.” That means the fire department can bill the provincial government for their call-outs. In his report, Girard estimated the operating costs would amount to $9,000 per year.

In his vote against, Johnston praised the work of the volunteers but said he wasn’t convinced there wouldn’t be more costs shouldered by municipal taxpayers.

“Saving lives is paramount,” said Mayor David Raven, who voted alongside other councillors to support the change. He added the issue needed to be addressed at the regional district level. “It’s just not fair that the city ends up paying for all these services … outside the city limits,” Raven said.

The next steps include many technical and paperwork changes. The road rescue society will continue to exist and raise funds for highway rescue equipment.

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