Regional fire departments lack support

Fire departments in the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen lack support

  • Jan. 9, 2019 4:40 p.m.

The chair of the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen says she fears support for the region’s seven fire departments is worse than it was two years ago.

“I just fear we’ve gotten worse and the current situation is less support than it was two years ago and if it carries on this way there is no support,” said Karla Kozakevich, director for Area E (Naramata) and the chair of the board.

Kozakevich made those comments during the recent board meeting where the issue of the fire departments and how they manage human resources, records management and financial obligations was discussed.

Related: Naramata fire chief could return to duties in January

Issues surrounding installing a single regulatory bylaw for the RDOS’ seven fire departments (Tulameen, Keremeos, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls, Narmata, Anarchist Mountain and Willowbrook) came to a head last April.

At that time, after much debate with directors, and dissent from several of the fire chiefs, the board chose to abandon one regulatory bylaw for all departments, opting instead to have seven bylaws. The decision means the chiefs are direct employees of the board, instead of reporting to CAO or other senior staff, and in charge of their own administration, records management and human resources. It also meant elimination of the position of emergency services supervisor, which was tasked with helping behind the scenes operations of the fire departments.

Kozakevich said since April she’s been asked to help fire chiefs in administration and other duties and she is not qualified.

“In my opinion our current system is not working. It’s not working for me, it’s been eight months since we repealed 2566 (the one regulatory bylaw). I’m not a manager of fire departments and I’m not a human resources manager, so they’re coming to me to try and help them with their needs. I know the board as a whole is their bosses and it’s not just me, but it’s all coming to me,” she said.

Directors heard at the meeting the firefighters association, which includes chiefs from all departments but Tulameen, was working on drafting their own regulatory bylaw, but it continues to lack legal components. The chiefs’ bylaw is currently waiting to be reviewed by lawyers. It’s been sent back several times for legal reasons.

Related: Chiefs back in control of regional departments

Several directors asked if a chiefs’ representative could sit with a lawyer to hammer out the legal requirements of the bylaw.

Bill Newell, CAO of the RDOS, said that could be an option.

Mark Pendergraft, director for Area A (Rural Osoyoos), said issues of human resources, and administration are not new and predate the provincial playbook which tightened regulations on fire departments.

“Don’t for a minute think this is the result of last year’s decisions. These policies are three, four, five years old… We didn’t give support when it was needed. The problem is a lack of trust,” he said.

Newell said support has not been adequate in the past.

“In my mind they don’t need support from someone who knows how to run a fire department, how to run a fire. They know how to run a fire ground. Where we’ve let them down in the past is the support we’ve offered them as far as administrative support, as far as records management, human resource management. They know how to fight a fire. They don’t need our assistance on that,” he said.

Bob Coyne who represents Area H (Rural Princeton/Tulameen) has been outspoken about being against the chiefs’ reporting directly to the board, saying the Tulameen chief is in support of one regulatory bylaw.

“My fire department isn’t involved in any of this stuff going on and Tulameen should not be paying for these other people to sit out and argue. As far as I’m concerned this whole thing has been disastrous. We have to at some point acknowledge that people in the fire department are our employees and that we have to be in charge of those people,” he said.

To report a typo, email:
editor@keremeosreview.com
.


@TaraBowieBC
editor@keremeosreview.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Still months of investigation left into Penticton quadruple murders

Penticton came to a standstill on April 15, when John Brittain allegedly shot and killed four people

Busy season so far for Penticton Lawn Bowling Club

It has been a busy season for the Penticton Lawn Bowling Club,… Continue reading

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Okanagan and Connector

Storms expected to develop this morning and intensify early in the afternoon

Update on South Okanagan-Similkameen national park reserve announced Tuesday

Environment and Climate Change minister Catherine McKenna will join others in Osoyoos

Chilliwack man charged in crash that killed Kelowna pregnant woman

Frank Tessman charged for 2018 Highway 1 accident where Kelowna elementary school teacher died

VIDEO: Driver doing laps in busy Vancouver intersections nets charges

Toyota Camry spotted doing laps in intersection, driving towards pedestrians

Kelowna’s homeless population doesn’t have much hope of finding a bed at a shelter

Central Okanagan Journey Home Society says 300 people waitlisted for supportive housing

Public tip leads to seizure of drugs and weapons in North Okanagan

Concerned citizen spots male sleeping in car in residential area

Former Vernon Judo coach pleads guilty to child pornography charges

Bryan Jeffrey McLachlan is set to return to court Sept. 4 for sentencing

B.C. Olympic skier sues Alpine Canada after coach’s sex offences

Bertrand Charest was convicted in 2017 on 37 charges

Action imperative on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Chief commissioner into national inquiry encourages governments, private sector to act

Summerland applying for $60,000 grant for energy efficiency upgrades

Funding under Community Energy Leadership Program covers 33 per cent of project costs

COLUMN: Imagine the possibilities at the library

Programs at Summerland Library promote reading among children

Summerland Orca Swim Club holds fundraising events

Proceeds benefit swimmer with rare kidney disease

Most Read