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SRD looking into regional fire protection service

Electoral area and municipal directors disagree on need for feasibility study
The Quadra Island Fire Department is run by an Improvement District, not the Strathcona Regional District. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

The Strathcona Regional District board is divided about the prospect of a feasibility into a regional fire protection service.

During the Sept. 8 board meeting, a motion authorizing $40,000 to be spent on a feasibility study passed, though the vote was split on rural/urban lines. The four electoral area directors, representing the rural parts of the regional district all voted against the study, while directors from municipal areas — of which there are nine — voted in favour of it.

According to the staff report on the meeting agenda, the purpose of the feasibility study would be to “examine potential benefits associated with a regional approach to fire protection services delivered through the Regional District, local municipalities and other public entities.”

However the electoral area directors felt that fire protection services in their areas were sufficient, and in some cases the independent improvement districts would be difficult to convince to participate in the study and any resulting service.

“I would personally love to have a regional fire service that would include Quadra Island and whatever other areas we could fit in,” said Quadra Island director Jim Abram. “I have to inform the board that you will absolutely be wasting your time with the South Quadra Island Fire Protection District.”

That sentiment was echoed by Electoral Area A director Gerald Whalley, who said that “Area A would never participate in a regional fire protection service. It potentially could have some benefit, and could logically make some sense, but it makes no sense whatsoever for Area A. We’d never join it. You guys knew that before you initiated the idea.”

“I have a suggestion that I made once before: we have a municipal services committee that has absolutely no services,’ Whalley said. “This would be a golden opportunity for the municipalities service, but a regional service would never play. It’s just a waste of money.”

SRD corporate services manager Tom Yates told directors that the intent would not be to amalgamate any existing services, rather it would be “to discover if there are things that would be of benefit and would make sense for public money to be spent on.”

The municipal directors were more concerned with identifying gaps in the services, and getting information on what already exists.

“I don’t know why everybody’s getting paranoid that the Regional District is going to take over their fire departments. It’s about how we work together,” said Campbell River director Charlie Cornfield. “To hear comments like I’ve heard today… ooh, it doesn’t effect us… ooh, I’m not going to play… when the forest catches fire it’s not going to pay attention to an artificial line on the ground. It burns. When we get going — the Interior is a prime example of what happens — a lot of people suffer and it takes the combined efforts of everyone.”

“All this is is a feasibility study that commits nobody to anything,” he said. “It’s about how we can all work together and deal with issues that could affect us all. It’s how we support each other in worst case situations.”

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