Funding for the two firefighter positions cut in the 2014 budget will be restored in the 2015 budget, Penticton city council announced Monday.
According to Mayor Garry Litke, the city has been in talks with the Penticton Indian Band since the spring to cover the expanded area. They have been developing an agreement to provide fire protection, first responder and fire safety inspection services to the band’s new development and residential areas (non-native leasehold improvements) east of the Penticton Channel: Skaha Hills, Riva Ridge, Barefoot Beach Resort, Wright’s Beach Campground and Red Wing.
During the 2014 budget planning process, city council chose not to provide funding to replace two firefighters who had retired, leaving the department two people short of the staffing indicated as needed in studies of the department.
“In 2007, the original staffing report that was done listed a number of developments that were going to take place that didn’t occur,” said Fire Chief Wayne Williams. “We are starting to see that coming now and that is why we are going back and council has supported the hiring of the two firefighters.”
It also left the department short on the number of firefighters needed to enter a burning building. WorkSafeBC requires four firefighters on scene, and an additional two within 10 minutes in order to maintain the interior attack.
“We have been able to maintain that required manning about 54 per cent of the time. With the addition of these two firefighters we plan on doing it over 90 per cent of the time,” said Williams.
Williams also said the PIB’s volunteer fire department will continue its operations, enhanced by training at the Dawson Avenue training facility.
“They have a limited number of firefighters right now, but they are very much looking forward to coming over and training with us and using the services of our training centre. We will be able to provide them with live fire training,” said Williams, adding that the Office of the Fire Commissioner recently came out with a set of standards for firefighter training.
The lowest level, he explained, is exterior fire attack only, ranging up to a fully trained firefighter.
“That is what we are going to aim our firefighters for here in Penticton,” said Williams.
The city also announced it would be adding a new position of fire training officer to the fire department roster in 2015. That person will be responsible for creating, implementing and co-ordinating a department training program for all staff, as well as serving as the technical training advisor internally and externally.
The training officer, said Williams, is the first step to developing the existing emergency training centre into a full-fledged and accredited live fire training centre, serving the South Okanagan region.
“We have been working at it for a number of years,” said Williams. “We are hoping that in 2015, with the training officer on board, we will be able to get it certified as a recognized accreditation facility so that when people come and do training at our facility, they would get a certificate.”