Provincial Fire Service?

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csm
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Provincial Fire Service?

Post by csm »

I have almost 44 years of emergency service experience in BC, as F/T Fire, Volunteer Fire ( 16 years combined ), and 33 as Paramedic ( concurrent with Volunteer Fire Service).

Fire Department costs are primarily paid for by the municipal tax base that is largely funded by property owners in the municipality where they reside. This means, that Fire Departments primary responsibility is within the borders of that municipality, not beyond.

Is it fair that Kelowna Taxpayers end up having to pay for their Fire Department transgressing it's borders, and abandoning it's responsibility to the very one's that pay for that service?

In reality, without a mutual aid system in place with a neighbouring municipality, as soon as they leave their response area, and a major Fire happens within the area of their responsibility, and their manpower is compromised to where they cannot effectively combat that fire to the level expected for their regular compliment of firefighters, in which lives and property may be further jeopardized, they can be open to legal litigation.

Fire Departments exist only because it's cheaper to have a fire department than it is to pay the Fire Insurance on your property if you don't have one. If it weren't for that factor, most fire depts. would still be volunteer, even in Kelowna because taxes and fire insurance would be almost unbearable for the average home owner to bear.

Perhaps it's high time for the Fire Service to be funded and managed provincially, just like the BC Ambulance Service ( one of the best in the world), therefore, no one in BC would have to watch their house burn to the ground with a firetruck standing by 100 feet away to prevent extension over it's invisible border, and vehicle fires on the highways and roadways that are currently outside of fire protection would be dealt with before they have a chance to extend to the bush and cause many millions of dollars in firefighting costs due to such delays.

You would have one provincial Fire Service, managed and based territorially (Zones). A mix of full-time and part-time ( just like the Ambulance Service ).

The unfortunate part of that scenario, is that the paid Firefighters would likely end up with more sane wages, ( like the BC Ambulance Service Paramedics who get paid much less ), and would compliment a provincial "Public Safety" service.

The benefit to the current firefighter, is when vacancies occur in other cities with full-time members, they can have the option to bid to a new town and not be stuck for their whole career in one area. Especially to those who are older and wanting a slower pace during their final years.

This "Public Safety" service would further be enhanced by the inclusion of Search and Rescue and other emergency orientated requirements to really make it the role model of the world, and would be of great benefit to those behind the Provincial borders of B.C, residents, businesses and visitors alike.

I'm sure there are those who can pick many holes in this, but it isn't meant to be a perfect solution and a great deal of study should be undertaken to ensure viability, but on the surface, and from my years of experience in both Fire and Ambulance, I can see it being a more efficient and cost effective method of providing emergency services to everyone in this province, not just those behind municipal fences.

This is only speculation, and I don't know if there is any truth to this, but there could also be federal funding for such a service, since it would also incorporate federal area's of responsibility, such as our Coastal area's and federal parks.

Food for thought?
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Jflem1983
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by Jflem1983 »

Paramedics make like 2 bucks an hour. I do not see that as a model to emulate at all
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csm
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by csm »

Jflem1983 wrote:Paramedics make like 2 bucks an hour. I do not see that as a model to emulate at all

Yes, I am aware of that, but that is part-time pager pay - and not while doing a call, and true, the wage scale needs to be cleaned up if they want to attract people that have the mental and physical skills to do the job.

On duty, part-time or full-time, BCAS should be paying it's members full pay when they are on duty.

However, most Volunteer F/F''s usually don't get even pager pay, but they get other perks, like pay for responding to calls, banquets, and a year end stipend, not to mention a $2000 Tax Credit - Part Time Ambulance get no tax credit, even though their focus is for saving lives. Apparently now, when on a Kilo shift they are guaranteed at least one call-out ( 4hrs pay ), so things are improving even if it's only slightly.
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youjustcomplain
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by youjustcomplain »

I'd be curious to know how many fire halls across BC are career halls vs POC vs volunteer. Some of the POC halls could do with some FT staff, but most likely wouldn't need it and the cost wouldn't be worth it. Many of the volunteer halls just wouldn't have the call volume to warranty any FT staff. Though, I really feel that all communities should be paying a provincal rate for POC firefighters. The idea of volunteer fire dept's should be phased out.
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by seewood »

youjustcomplain wrote:I'd be curious to know how many fire halls across BC are career halls vs POC vs volunteer. Some of the POC halls could do with some FT staff, but most likely wouldn't need it and the cost wouldn't be worth it. Many of the volunteer halls just wouldn't have the call volume to warranty any FT staff. Though, I really feel that all communities should be paying a provincal rate for POC firefighters. The idea of volunteer fire dept's should be phased out.


To have a full time/ career department, the jurisdiction has to have the tax base to pay for it. Usually they will be union if over 5? members and that rate is determined from the big departments in the lower mainland in many cases. ( fire is fire, haz mat, vehicle extrications, first responder etc. is the same all over the province is the argument)
Some halls are composite, Summerland for example. Mix of a few career and the rest POC. Squamish was the same.
I believe the goal posts have or are moving regarding training for POC departments with standardized province wide training depending on what the department will respond to. Princeton Fire Dept. does not respond to vehicle crashes for example. Summerland does not respond to first responder calls unless requested for assist. This takes money and Regional Districts are bucking up, RDOS is anyway.
I whole heartedly agree with the phasing out of purely volunteer departments. Those departments can have pretty regular turn over and may have issues with training to provincial standards.

I believe Work Safe is one agency pushing for the standardized training and the fear of litigation is also an issue throughout the province. The training standards and training records are now very important in any department. Penticton has a dedicated Assistant Chief Training. Tons of paperwork.
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TylerM4
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by TylerM4 »

The problem with moving firefighting/protection to a provincial service is that everyone in the province will expect to receive said service.

I'm not willing to pay the cost associated with extending protection to that 1 house that's 20km up a dirt road and 10km from the next nearest house and hydrant.
youjustcomplain
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by youjustcomplain »

TylerM4 wrote:The problem with moving firefighting/protection to a provincial service is that everyone in the province will expect to receive said service.

I'm not willing to pay the cost associated with extending protection to that 1 house that's 20km up a dirt road and 10km from the next nearest house and hydrant.


Agreed !
I'd imagine that those houses, (and there are a lot of them across the province), that are not within any city limits would still be required to pay an additional fee to the province in order to have fire protection and if they decide to not take that option, then they are NOT covered and their insurance rates will be astronomical.

Some properties, I'm thinking ranches, may be 50 KM plus away from any city limits. They would continue, as they do now, to not be covered by any fire protection services.

I think I'd like a provincial fire protection service, but really, it would have to be limited to structures located within City Limits, AND Structures outside of city limits where the local Fire Dept could respond to only after the owner paid an extra fee to the province for this coverage.


As for Volunteers, I agree with what was said above. It's always going to be hard to get and retain volunteer staff. Once you have them, they need to be trained, and due to turnover and training requirements, many of these dept's won't be able to keep up. As a result, many volunteer fire depts don't do auto extrication, FR calls or interior fire fighting. They really can only surround and drown, which is far better than nothing.
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csm
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by csm »

I've been reading some of the interesting responses here, and some of the arguments make sense, however, a Provincial service would remove the financial responsibility from the Municipality ( or with a "Per Capita" Fire Levy ), and place it under a provincially funded system.

I have seen the argument about sending a fire truck up to one house, but in BC, you would send an Ambulance to that house, or an Air Ambulance to any area that is accessible to it, so why not a fire truck? Remember, remote homes also pay taxes to the Province ( with exception to first nations land), and no one will be refused Ambulance regardless of their location in BC.

Not every fire hall would be manned by a full-time Firefighter either. Many Ambulance stations are completely part time, even Grand Forks, that has a significant population and huge response area, yet no full-time members ( they were downsized years ago ).

The City of Langford, also has a huge coverage area, and a population of around 35,340 (2016) and probably higher now, and they have very few paid members ( mostly Volunteer ) responding from 3 firehalls. Cities of Colwood, Metchosin and View Royal ( suburbs of Victoria) likewise are predominantly Volunteer, so to say every firehall would have paid members is not a reasonable argument. Of course, the system would have to start somewhere and fine tuning would definitely be required, but the overall concept would be a hell of a lot more efficient than it is now.

Early response to area's that currently have no protection, could have saved millions upon millions in forest fires triggered by MVA's, and simply flicking a cigarette butt into the ditch.

Of course this Provincial Fire Protection would encompass SAR as well as Forestry.

From my almost 44 years of experience in Emergency Services ( Fire and Ambulance), 100% spent responding to the needs of the citizens and visitors of BC, experiencing their worst nightmare, I strongly feel this would not only be a more efficient system with a blanket regulatory body, but also less expensive than the current, 150 year old system we have today.

I never did say I had the perfect solution, that would take study an number crunching from experts, I was only throwing it out there for people to think about.
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by dogspoiler »

Many FD's have mutual aid agreements with each other, maybe something like that could be expanded.
There is a very good argument to be made that the municipal crew should stay and look after the people that have paid for them.
There is also a very good argument to be made for going out of their area to put out a small fire before the wind creates a blazing wildfire and blows it into their town.
Local knowledge of the roads and trails could be very helpful.
Dispatchers will need to be trained for the new system and given proper authority.

Some things to consider

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rookie314
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by rookie314 »

I love the hit it hard quote. With what? How many resources do you need to "hit it Hard". I stated when Mr Zimmerman made that comment, you have 4 engines and eight fires, which ones do you hit hard? There are a limited number of resources available and BC is a big province. 57 million hectares of forest.
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by dogspoiler »

The easiest thing in the world is to imagine failure, every loser does it. No matter what they are told they dream up another problem, but never a solution. Does anyone want to dream up a meteor shower and volcano ?
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Treblehook
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Re: Provincial Fire Service?

Post by Treblehook »

I wonder if the OP is suggesting that Kelowna could have dealt with the firestorm of 2003 without the help of all of the other fire departments who came to their aid? These are not normal times, with the numbers and nature of the fires that are occurring in the Okanagan and elsewhere. Maybe it is just a case of what goes around, comes around. It is the responsibility of the Fire Chief in each jurisdiction to make sure that he retains sufficient resources to deal with emergencies that occur in his/her area... at least until he can recover the resources that were sent out to help neighbouring jurisdictions. Sometimes taking the bean counting or [I hesitate to say it, but] nitpicking approach only serves to unreasonably restrict our ability to do what has to be done. Seems to me if Kelowna's main fire hall sends apparatus to a neighboring area, that some arrangements would simultaneously be made with other fire halls around the city to ensure that a fire in one place or another would be adequately covered. It ain't rocket science is it.

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