Man with the label 'Chair' in front of him gestures with his hand as he speaks. The man seated to his immediate right is taking notes. Someone else is listening

SRD considering a ‘shopping list’ approach for centralized fire service

The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) centralized fire administration support service may be a lot less controversial than expected. 

Regional Director Gerald Whalley, of Area A, was originally opposed to the idea of a centralized fire service. At the April 26 Board meeting he said,  “I have come to support this. I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s going to save us all money.”

Chair Mark Baker, who is also the Mayor of Sayward, added, “Just to let y’all know, I support this 100%.  However, I do have to bring this back to my council. I’ve discussed it with the CAO just here. But without having this information prior to our council meeting, that was a week ago. I do have to bring it back, but I do fully support it.”   

Shopping list photo by Roy L Hales

Director Whalley moved and Regional Director Mark Vonesch, of Cortes Island, seconded a motion that the matter be deferred until the May 10, 2023, Board Meeting.

While the feasibility study unveiled at last Wednesday’s Board meeting calls for a Fire Chief in Campbell River, it also states that communities are interested in a ‘shopping list’ approach, where local fire departments can pick the items they wish to subscribe to. 

Priority services include: 

  • “Recruitment and retention program development
  • Training and competency management program development, delivery and tracking, 
  • Implementation of a records management system linked to the central fire dispatch, 
  • and Development of regional significant incident response and mutual aid systems.” 

This service may be primarily funded through user fees, paid by the individual fire departments. However the feasibility study also suggests a tax levy of about $0.02 for every thousand dollars of residential property assessment, or about $16 for a typical residential property valued at $800,000. 

Approximately 60% of the new service’s resources are expected to be devoted to the needs of the Campbell River Fire Department. The remaining 40% would be shared by the 6 volunteer fire departments contracted through the SRD – Cortes Island, Gold River, Oyster River, Sayward, Tahsis and Zeballos – as well as the Quadra Island Fire Department, which is currently independent.  

Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch reaffirmed the idea that rural fire departments would continue to service their communities. 

“Every individual service has to have its own service there. We have General Admin that catches a few things in here.”  

Links of Interest:

Top image credit: Chair Mark Baker tells the Board, “Just to let y’all know, I support this 100%.” CAO David Leitch sits to his left and Regional Director John Rice from Area D is looking on – screenshot from YouTube of meeting

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