A Beasley Fire Department firefighter puts out a structure blaze in Bonnington in July 2020. Photo: Submitted

A Beasley Fire Department firefighter puts out a structure blaze in Bonnington in July 2020. Photo: Submitted

RDCK board: High praise for FireSmart projects

All the news from the Sept. 23 meeting

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

The RDCK says its wildfire mitigation programs are seeing wide acceptance from the public – and even the provincial government.

A report by Community Sustainability Manager Chris Johnson to the board on Sept. 23 outlined how the program has gone from success to success in the last few years. And one “sideways” success is the loss of the program’s wildfire mitigation supervisor Joel Hamilton, who got headhunted to run the provincial government’s FireSmart program.

“This is a great opportunity for Joel, and a substantial compliment to the RDCK Board of Directors’ vision to support the development of the RDCK FireSmart program, from which the new BC FireSmart program has been modelled,” says Johnson’s report.

Johnson told the Valley Voice aspects of the RDCK’s pioneering program will be rolled out to other regions of the province.

“They saw value in our program and how we have spread it out and worked with all our partner municipalities throughout the region to provide one service to many,” he says. “The RDCK covers off all electoral areas and a number of the municipalities, and I think the province likes that regional approach to this.”

He also gives credit to the board for supporting the RDCK’s early adoption of the program.

“We went through a whole lot of learning curves early, and worked closely with municipalities that we partner with on it,” he says. “I think the standardization and high level of training our wildfire mitigation specialists have is another great thing about our program.”

One of the big success stories of the last few years has been the Community Resiliency Investment program (CRI).

In the last three years, it’s grown from a $195,000 program that mostly offered individuals FireSmart property assessments, to an $829,000 program that offers cash rebates to people who act on their FireSmart assessments, creates neighbourhood protection groups and regional landscape committees, and supports FireSmart upgrades to critical infrastructure.

The report updated directors on the project, and emphasized the importance of continuing the wildfire mitigation supervisor’s position.

The board received Johnson’s report as information.

Other fire business

Several motions were passed in relation to fire services.

Firefighters at the Passmore Hall will be getting new air masks and tanks. The new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus will cost $79,683. The upgrades are necessary to keep the fire hall compliant with provincial fire regulations.

The community of Slocan is getting a new fire chief. Devin Lindsay has served as the acting fire chief since John Gates retired as fire chief in February. Lindsay has served previously as deputy fire chief with the Slocan Volunteer Fire Department.

And the board approved a three-month extension to the agreement the RDCK has with the New Denver Fire Department to provide limited firefighting services outside the Village’s community boundary.

The RDCK will pay New Denver $70,061 for the extended service. The extension is to give staff time to re-negotiate a new five-year agreement between the community and regional government. The extension agreement expires December 21, and staff hope to have a new five-year contract in place by the new year.

CDF grants

Several Community Development Fund grants were approved for organizations in our area.

The Lardeau Valley Historical Society is receiving $1,000 for signage at its Outdoor Museum Park in Meadow Creek.

The Kaslo and Area Youth Centre will receive $4,000 for renovations to its new space on Front Street in Kaslo.

In Area H, the Slocan Volunteer Fire Department is receiving $2,000 to show appreciation for the Trozzo Creek Fire efforts with the purchase of casual apparel and fitness equipment; the Crescent Valley Firefighters Fund is getting $2,000, also for new apparel; and the Glade Watershed Protection Society is receiving $800 from Area H towards the production of a short video called The Story of Water.

And in Area K, the Fish in Schools Program is receiving $7,500 for 2021.

Cell study on hold

No study will be done on improving cell phone service in the Slocan Valley until the new year. A motion by Area H Director Walter Popoff and Area I Director Andy Davidoff calling for the study has been put on hold again, at their request.

The two directors initially proposed the study in the spring, but have been working to identify funding or private carriers who might do the study. At the last board meeting, the pair said they’re now looking into a new grant stream they may be able to access for the $30,000 report.

They won’t know the results of that for a few months yet.

The board approved tabling the motion until its January meeting.

Fire service for Hills?

Staff at the RDCK are going to review what level of fire service the community of Hills needs – and can afford.

Hills, located about 10 kilometres north of New Denver, will be the subject of a service case analysis of the fire services they currently receive and what they may need.

Right now, the community has very rudimentary fire protection, with a volunteer brigade using hand-me-down equipment from other jurisdictions.

“They wanted to establish a fire service a few years ago,” says Area H Director Walter Popoff. “But when we did a preliminary look, they didn’t have the tax base to establish a bona fide Regional District fire service. It would be too expensive for them.”

A service case analysis doesn’t mean the community will be establishing its own service anytime soon. Rather, it would more likely allow the regional district to see if another fire service – like New Denver – might be able to provide some form of limited protection to Hills. (Under agreement with the regional district, New Denver does provide some coverage north of its town limits, but not as far as Hills.)

“This is not something new,” Popoff told the Valley Voice. “The Kaslo and Balfour fire departments cover Ainsworth. So it’s something we’ve already tried and established.”

The service case analysis is now in the hands of RDCK Fire Chief Nora Hannon, and New Denver Fire Department and municipal officials. It’s not known when the study will be complete.