New regional service has communities fired up
The ribbon was cut April 16 in South River on the Bay de Grave Regional Fire Department, but the shiny new $221,000 pumper truck on display was already used equipment.
Four days earlier, the truck and the 19 men who comprise the department had been part of the response to the brushfire in Chapel’s Cove that damaged several buildings and vehicles.
Fire Chief Jeremy Hall of North River said the fire hall’s first major call went well, and he was excited to be part of the team that will provide fire coverage for Clarke’s Beach, Cupids, Makinsons, North River and South River. In his remarks to the assembled crowd of area residents and dignitaries, Chief Hall commended the firefighters for their service and also thanked their wives for tolerating the long hours their husbands often spend at the hall, including himself.
“I’m soon going to need a bunk up here.”
The department has been in the works for three years as an agreement was hammered out in endless meetings between the communities and the provincial government, which kicked in 90 per cent of the capital costs. The total cost of the new department was estimated at $1.2 million, including $737,000 for the fire hall.
Junior Taylor, the chairman of the Bay de Grave Regional Fire Service Committee, said he knew the regional fire department could work when the provincial government agreed to cover 90 percent of the capital costs, instead of the 80 percent it had initially offered.
“ We felt that we didn’t have the finances to finance the venture then, knowing that it was going to be a rather costly venture. We just didn’t have the money,” said Taylor.
“But than as we negotiated with government representatives and got this 90/10 agreement, we knew then that we could easily handle such a venture.”
Taylor said the committee was “totally in the dark” when it came to knowing what the proposed new fire department would need.
“ We were all novices when it comes to fire departments. We were depending on Cupids for years for our protection, and then when they felt they couldn’t provide it to us anymore, we had to go looking to Bay Roberts.”
The original agreement with Bay Roberts was to provide three months of temporary fire coverage, which eventually stretched into four years as the committee worked on establishing its own fire service.
“ Thankfully, we’ve got it done. We’ve got a tremendous fire department, good workers, great men,” he said.
Taylor said the provincial government will be looking at the Bay de Grave fire department as a model for applying regionalization to fire services in other areas of the province.
“ That was a comment that [director of regional co-operation in Municipal Affairs] Keith Warren made to us, that we’re going to be an example to the whole province,” he said.
Taylor said there was some initial skepticism among people in the communities that a regional fire department would work - or even should be attempted.
“Like any community, of course, everybody wants to retain their identity, and they think that if you go into a regional setting, you’re going to lose your identity as a community, which is not true,” he said. “Some people can be rather resistant to stuff like that.”
But as the project started to take shape, it was easier to counter that thinking, he said.
“ We’re very proud of our fire station and our firemen, I can tell you that,” he said.
Junior Taylor, the chairman of the Bay de Grave Regional Fire Service Committee, speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in South River on April 16.