Photo: Residents pack the Pomeroy Hotel Tuesday night to talk fire protection – Kimberley Molina/Energeticcity.ca
Determining the next step for Charlie Lake’s Fire Department was the reason community residents were asked to attend a public meeting, however confusion and a want for transparency appeared to be the biggest topics.
More than 200 residents, along with members of the Peace River Regional District, attended Tuesday evening’s meeting being held by the community’s fire society and fire chief.
The department is at a crossroads, facing the prospect of having to acquire paid staff members or having to disband. Part of the situation also revolved around the department having to be responsible for its own liability insurance.
The fire department has previously been covered under the Regional District’s insurance. However, the Municipal Insurance Association is now requiring that the Charlie Lake Fire Department be removed from the District’s coverage. Fire Chief Al Pinkerton told residents that if the society has to cover its own liability insurance, it could cost ten times more than it currently does and would also put direct liability on the society. The society would then be responsible for any decisions it makes with regards to safety.
Although the majority of residents at the meeting appeared to want to keep the fire department and not become an unprotected community, several also expressed a desire for more transparency within the fire society. One point that came up was that residents wanted the ability to access the insurance underwriter’s report that was done on the fire department and to also be able to view the department’s budget.
Currently, Charlie Lake’s fire department is funded by the Regional District which is in turn funded by resident’s taxes. The estimated 2011 budget for the department is upwards of $700,000. Pinkerton stresses that the Society does not own any piece of the department, including the fire trucks, the building or the land on which the station sits, which are all owned by either the Regional District or the Province.
Part of the confusion surrounding the meeting was in the various ways the fire society could receive its funding, whether as part of the Regional District or as part of a separate municipality.
Regional District Chair Karen Goodings was at the meeting and told residents that the District is open to hearing their views on the different ways it could proceed. Goodings says residents should contact Director of Area C Arthur Hadland with their suggestions.
Although the fire department’s next step was not resolved at the meeting, one thing that remains clear is that most residents at the meeting do not want to have the department disband and are hoping to make sure that does not happen.