The Revelstoke fire department will be a full-service operation, at a cost to the tax payer of about $60,000.
Council voted unanimously in a closed-door meeting to make Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services a Full-Service Operation Level Fire Department, in accordance with new regulations set by the province’s Office of the Fire Commissioner, the City of Revelstoke announced Thursday morning.
“In Revelstoke we have eight story high rises, we have commercial structures, we have a historical downtown,” said fire chief Rob Girard in an interview. “In the past we have fought fire to the full fire service level, but we didn’t have the training to match that. Council has declared us to be full service and we are going to spend the next two years training to full service.”
The move was made necessary when the Office of the Fire Commissioner established minimum competencies for fire departments across the province in May. Departments were given three options: They could either be exterior attack only, have the ability to enter small structures, or be full-service operations.
Council opted for the latter, meaning firefighters – both career and volunteer – have to be trained to the standards set by the fire commissioner.
“We spent a long time in camera talking about where we were going to go with his
and the consensus was we needed to continue to be a full service fire department,” said councillor Trevor English, the chair of the city’s security committee. “We didn’t want to move to exterior attack only, nor did we not want to be able to enter a building or premise should there be someone inside that could possibly be saved.”
What this means is that starting sometime next year, volunteer firefighters will undergo extra training so they can fight a full range of exterior and interior fires, said Girard. It will mean more studying and more training, followed by certification by the College of the Rockies.
Girard said he wasn’t worried about putting too much burden on volunteer firefighters.
“It’s going to be a little more work for firefighters, for sure, but we’ll end up with a better firefighter at the end of the day that can operate safely and has been trained to do that,” he said.
Of 40 volunteers, five already have the necessary training, while the other 35 will need to be brought up to the new standards, at a cost of about $1,700 each. said Girard.
“New recruits will be realizing there’s going to be a lot of training, a lot of time, and a lot of money spent on them,” he said.
The discussion over the level of service happened in the closed portion of the council meeting. The city cited the portion of the Community Charter that allows council to discuss matters pertaining to level of service behind closed doors, if the discussion “could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality if they were held in public.”
The staff report that led to council’s decision has not been made public.
English said council did discuss the budget ramifications of the decision.
“When we really reviewed what the fire department is doing, versus other fire departments and their level of training, with the historic downtown that’s made mostly of wood — we need to be able to get into those buildings and save people if there’s the opportunity to do that,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about — keeping our guys safe, keeping their level of training up, and keeping the community safe.”