The major fire and subsequent demolition of the almost-100-year-old Quinsam Hotel was one of Campbell River’s major news events of 2017 and the only time the newly-renewed mutual aid agreement was used by the Campbell River department last year. Mirror File Photo

City of Campbell River extends mutual aid agreement for firefighting resources

Agreement allows departments to call their neighbours for help should they be needed

The City of Campbell River has extended an agreement that will see our fire department continue to provide services in neighbouring communities as far away as Fanny Bay should they be requested to do so.

The idea of a mutual aid agreement first came about in 2008, when council approved having the fire chief begin discussions with the Comox Valley Fire Rescue Services, which led to an agreement with that community for a five-year term in 2013.

“The increasing complexity of emergency response services create challenges for any one jurisdiction to be able to provide adequate resources for every possible potential emergency they may face within their jurisdiction,” says the staff report recommending the renewal of the agreement for another five years. “Mutual aid agreements also provide backup protection when local resources are committed to an emergency and subsequent emergency incidents occur.”

Although the community requesting the additional services does have to pay the department providing them, the report says, that cost is much less than the proposition of not having access to those services should they be required.

And it’s not like these requests are made very often.

When asked at council this week about how the Mutual Aid Agreement has been implemented in the past, incoming fire chief Thomas Doherty told council that “there are maybe one or two incidents a year,” where services are requested by a neighbouring community.

“Last year we had resources requested to go down to Comox for a wildfire that occurred and we called upon our neighbours in Oyster River to help us with the Quinsam Hotel fire,” Doherty said, adding that while it’s not by any means frequent that these requests are made, it’s important that these agreements are in place should they be required.

“Large scale events that go on for long durations are tough on our local resources,” Doherty said. “So it’s nice to have this agreement in place so we can work with out neighbouring partners to maintain that resource level.”

It should also be noted that the agreement specifies there is no requirement for any of the partners to respond when asked if it would be too taxing on their own resources, and, in fact, requires any jurisdiction making use of another’s resources at any time to release them from service should they be needed back in their own communities.

The partners in this agreement are the City of Campbell River, the Comox Valley Regional District, the City of Courtenay, the Town of Comox, the Village of Cumberland, the Union Bay Improvement District and the Ships Point Improvement District, which covers the community of Fanny Bay.

The CRFire Department also has a similar, separate agreement in place with BC Wildfire.