Re­silience through re­liance

Cen­tral com­mu­ni­ties tak­ing first steps to share fire de­part­ment re­sources

The Central Voice - - News - KYLE GREENHAM kyle.greenham@the­cen­

It’s been a long process, with years of dis­cus­sions and stum­bling blocks, but four com­mu­ni­ties in cen­tral are now tak­ing a big first step with their vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Camp­bell­ton, Loon Bay, Birchy Bay and Com­fort Cove New­stead came to­gether on Sept. 25 to dis­cuss ways they can im­prove their vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments by shar­ing re­sources and join­ing to­gether on cer­tain ini­tia­tives.

The ef­fort had orig­i­nally been a much larger project in­clud­ing com­mu­ni­ties like Lewis­porte, Em­bree and Lit­tle Burnt Bay. How­ever, when Lewis­porte stepped away from the pro­posal this past sum­mer, the ef­fort was put on hold.

Com­fort Cove-New­stead Coun. Randy Chaulk said that while this is a new di­rec­tion, it has the po­ten­tial to be a much bet­ter op­tion than their ini­tial plan of shar­ing fire de­part­ment re­sources on a larger scale.

“We were all ready for this to go ahead and then it all went down hill,” said Chaulk. “So, this is plan B, but it makes more sense be­cause the towns in­volved now are all in the one area and prox­im­ity.”

Li­nus Trem­blett, fire pro­tec­tion of­fi­cer with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, also at­tended the meet­ing to an­swer any ques­tions or con­cerns.

Camp­bell­ton Mayor Maisie Clark said an im­por­tant take­away from this ini­tial meet­ing is that the com­mu­ni­ties will not be los­ing their in­di­vid­ual fire de­part­ments, but will be com­ing to­gether to strengthen each de­part­ment when­ever ad­di­tional help or equip­ment is needed.

“[Trem­blett] as­sured every­body that we could work to­gether with­out los­ing our iden­tity. And that’s the big thing with small towns, they don’t want to lose their iden­ti­ties,” Clark said. “It’s not go­ing to be a re­gional fire de­part­ment, but we’re go­ing to re­gion­al­ize our ser­vices, share our equip­ment and share our man­power.”

Since the meet­ing, each com­mu­nity is now tak­ing a mu­tual aid agree­ment to their re­spec­tive coun­cils or lo­cal ser­vice dis­tricts. The mu­tual aid agree­ment en­sures that if a fire were to break out in any of these four com­mu­ni­ties, they can rely on the other com­mu­ni­ties for sup­port.

“If Camp­bell­ton’s de­part­ment were to help when a fire broke out in Loon Bay now, in­sur­ance would not cover us be­cause we’d be out of our own ju­ris­dic­tion,” said Clark. “Un­der mu­tual aid, the fire fight­ers would be cov­ered by in­sur­ance in these other ju­ris­dic­tions.”

For both Clark and Chaulk, as the pop­u­la­tions of their com­mu­ni­ties age and the task of ac­quir­ing vol­un­teers be­comes more dif­fi­cult, this mu­tual aid agree­ment will pro­vide peace of mind for their towns.

“If we don’t come to­gether we’re not go­ing to sur­vive,” said Clark. “Many of these com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing the day might have only two or three peo­ple at any given time to come to a fire. But if we can call on our neigh­bours next door that re­ally helps; it’ll help us sleep at night.”

In an emailed re­sponse from the De­part­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive said the de­part­ment is very sup­port­ive of com­mu­ni­ties pur­su­ing the ex­pan­sion of shared ser­vices, es­pe­cially around strength­en­ing the level of fire and emer­gency ser­vices pro­vided to res­i­dents.

De­part­ment reps will also at­tend fol­low-up meet­ings with these com­mu­ni­ties, and en­sure that each com­mu­nity per­forms a risk assess­ment as things move ahead.

New di­rec­tion

The com­mu­ni­ties are now work­ing to­wards a sec­ond meet­ing some­time in Oc­to­ber, and Bay­tona has also been in­vited to get in­volved.

Clark says the next meet­ing will likely fo­cus on im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and what train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are avail­able by tak­ing their de­part­ments in this new di­rec­tion.

“We’re go­ing to keep get­ting to­gether and hash­ing things out one at a time,” Clark said. “For the next step, we’re hop­ing all mu­tual aids will be signed and we can move onto com­mu­ni­ca­tion – mak­ing sure each town has the proper ra­dios.

“With more peo­ple, we’re look­ing to be able to have train­ing done to­gether as well. If we could have two or three mem­bers in the area do the train­ing and come back and train the oth­ers, that will be a big boost.”

With the op­por­tu­nity for bet­ter train­ing, more equip­ment and more peo­ple avail­able when the task of fight­ing fires is at hand, Clark is hope­ful that fu­ture meet­ings will prove suc­cess­ful.

“Ev­ery­one wishes we could each have a full fledged fire de­part­ment but we re­ally can’t af­ford it,” she said. “In­stead of each town hav­ing medi­ocre de­part­ments we can work to­gether to en­sure we all have what we need.

“It’s about be­ing bet­ter equipped and bet­ter trained to serve the peo­ple of our towns. I think we can re­ally achieve that by work­ing to­gether.”


Camp­bell­ton Mayor Maisie Clark says the new ini­tia­tive to work to­gether and share re­sources with the vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments of Loon Bay, Birchy Bay and Com­fort Cove-New­stead is cru­cial to pro­tect­ing each com­mu­nity

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