“Where’s the part­ner­ship?” Wheat­land Fire De­part­ments up in arms over pro­posed new by­law

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Terri Hux­ley The Drumheller Mail

The Ru­ral Fire As­so­ci­a­tions in Wheat­land County are con­cerned about the im­pact a new pro­posed by­law could have on how fire depart­ment op­er­a­tions are run.

Wheat­land County’s Fire and Emer­gency Man­age­ment Co­or­di­na­tor, Judy Unsworth, said, when in­tro­duc­ing the by­law, that this is a step to­wards uni­for­mity and consistency within the county, some­thing that has not been em­braced in the past. Unsworth ex­plained that ul­ti­mately the County is re­spon­si­ble for any li­a­bil­ity and that Dis­trict fire chiefs will now have to ad­here to cer­tain stan­dards of record keep­ing.

“You live and die by your records when it comes to in­ci­dents of OHS and WCB and also just for your own li­a­bil­ity man­age­ment. The thing is, that even though Wheat­land County can con­tract out the pro­vi­sions of fire pro­tec­tion ser­vices to fire preven­tion as­so­ci­a­tions, you can’t con­tract out of your li­a­bil­ity,” said Unsworth. “At the end of the day, Wheat­land County is still re­spon­si­ble for the type of fire pro­tec­tion ser­vice pro­vided in the county no mat­ter who’s pro­vid­ing it.”

Wheat­land County Reeve Glenn Koester echoes her opin­ion.

“This By­law gives clear def­i­ni­tions of the role of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity in pro­vid­ing fire ser­vices,” he stated. “It will also bring Wheat­land County more in com­pli­ance with what is ex­pected of us, and what we see through­out the prov­ince. The way our fire ser­vice op­er­ates is unique, in that we work with Fire As­so­ci­a­tions. This will con­tinue to be the case un­der the up­dated By­law, and we look for­ward to dis­cussing it fur­ther in Coun­cil and with all stake­hold­ers.”

30 or more vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers at­tended first read­ing of the pro­posed by­law on Tues­day, April 17 in Strath­more. They showed their dis­con­tent for the by­law, say­ing there was no

part­ner­ship es­tab­lished be­tween the two groups dur­ing the re­vi­sion process.

“We have is­sues and must ask our­selves ‘ Where is the part­ner­ship?’,” said Craig Nel­son who rep­re­sented vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers and the Ru­ral Fire As­so­ci­a­tions in Dalum, Rock­y­ford, Rose­bud and Stan­dard dur­ing the first read­ing of the con­tro­ver­sial by­law.

The by­law was brought to at­ten­tion af­ter coun­cil re­quested le­gal coun­sel to add up­dated leg­isla­tive changes in the Work­ers Com­pen­sa­tion Board ( WCB) Act, Alberta Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety (OHS) Act, and Mu­nic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment (MGA) Act. It will also es­tab­lish and op­er­ate fire de­part­ments in Wheat­land County, au­tho­riz­ing the preven­tion and con­trol of fires and au­tho­riz­ing the im­po­si­tion and re­cov­ery of re­lated fees, ex­penses and charges.

Pri­mary changes can be seen by the level of ser­vice and au­thor­ity the Re­gional Fire Chief and Re­gional Deputy Fire Chief have.

The Re­gional Fire Chief is a per­son who is ap­pointed into the po­si­tion of Fire and Emer­gency man­age­ment Co­or­di­na­tor by the County Man­ager. This per­son has many du­ties like co­or­di­nat­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tive, me­chan­i­cal, sup­port ser­vices, and op­er­a­tional func­tions of the Fire Ser­vices Depart­ment, di­rect­ing and mon­i­tor­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Fire Ser­vices through ef­fec­tive uti­liza­tion of hu­man and fi­nan­cial re­sources, and de­vel­op­ing poli­cies, pro­ce­dures, and plans.

The Deputy Fire Chief has ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­sides fill­ing in the role for Re­gional Fire Chief. This in­cludes de­vel­op­ing and mon­i­tor­ing mem­ber train­ing pro­grams among all fire de­part­ments in Wheat­land County as well as con­duct­ing life safety in­spec­tions and mon­i­tor­ing re­ports to make sure all County re­quire­ments are met.

“This is to en­sure consistency in fire train­ing and to en­sure that ev­ery mem­ber who’s out there, ev­ery vol­un­teer fire­fighter who is out there, who is re­spond­ing to calls, has the nec­es­sary level of train­ing to al­low him or her to be safe and ef­fi­cient in the de­liv­er­ing of this ser­vice,” said Unsworth.

Dis­trict Chiefs in­clud­ing Chiefs of the Ru­ral Fire As­so­ci­a­tion will be held ac­count­able and take di­rec­tion from the Re­gional Fire Chief. They will be asked to keep records, quar­terly re­ports, and monthly mem­ber at­ten­dance and train­ing records if the by­law passes.

The Ru­ral Fire As­so­ci­a­tions has asked to have an­other meet­ing with the County to dis­cuss some of the con­cerns they have.

“We se­ri­ously need to get some com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­volved in this By­law ... oth­er­wise we will be los­ing many ded­i­cated and trained vol­un­teers that are, at this mo­ment, ask­ing them­selves, ‘Why am I be­ing put through all this grief?’,” said Nel­son.

mailphoto by Terri Hux­ley

The Dalum Fire Depart­ment Hall stands tall in the blaz­ing sun on Mon­day, April 23. Vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers across Wheat­land County have raised con­cern of a new by­law that cov­ers the pro­ce­dures of all Ru­ral Fire As­so­ci­a­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.