Penticton firefighters extinguish the a shed fire near the end of the Okanagan River Channel last summer. The PFD is officially establishing its status as a full service department. (Mark Brett/Western News)

Penticton fire department going by the playbook

Fire department training exceeds official standards

A declaration of service level doesn’t really change anything for the Penticton Fire Department, according to fire chief Larry Watkinson.

Watkinson took his declaration the PFD is a full-service operations fire department with a component of interior operations, but says it was just bringing the department up to date on protocol.

Catching up on some old policies the department is updating including the operational guidelines, Watkinson realized the service level had never been officially declared.

“About four years ago, the provincial government made it mandatory that every jurisdiction has to declare a service level. It was primarily meant for the smaller communities,” said Watkinson, noting the directive stems from the fire death of Clearwater volunteer firefighter Chad Schapansky.

Schapansky died in 2004 when he fell through the floor of a burning Clearwater restaurant. He didn’t have a radio and a colleague used a cell phone to call for help.

The coroner’s report on his death recommended establishing a minimum training standard for volunteer firefighters and auditing the departments to make sure they lived up to it.

“The fire departments now have to declare a certain level of training,” said Watkinson. Full service is the highest level, he explained, and the PFD training goes above the standard laid out in the Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook.

“We go well beyond that as an organization, even in the technical programs,” said Watkinson, adding that the PFD also has tower, swift water and marine rescue programs.

“We’ve established ourselves much higher than the full-service Playbook requirement would be,” said Watkinson.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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