New re­gional ser­vice has com­mu­ni­ties fired up

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL MACEACH­ERN dmaceach­ern@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.

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