Fernie and RDEK strike new Mutual Aid Agreement
By Erin Knutson
A new Fire Service Mutual Aid Agreement for Baynes Lake, Jaffray, Elko and Hosmer between the City of Fernie and Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) was approved by council at Monday’s (Feb. 24) meeting.
The decision followed a presentation by Ted Ruiter, the director of fire and emergency services, touting the benefits of the new contract to the community.
“This agreement is in line with our core values; it would increase corporate and public safety while enhancing the safety of our communities,” he said.
At the Dec. 9, 2019 meeting, council received an information package in favour of renewing the existing mutual aid agreement with the addition of Elko.
Council motioned to consider it for approval.
Before Monday’s meeting, the City of Fernie held an operating agreement with the districts of Sparwood and Elkford.
With the new agreement in place, mutual aid will be provided amongst the volunteer fire departments in Baynes Lake, Jaffray, Elko, and Hosmer to fires and emergencies in these areas.
Mayor Ange Qualizza voiced concerns to Ruiter over adequate service coverage in Fernie based on information she received at a RDEK meeting regarding motor vehicle incidents. The mayor serves as Fernie’s RDEK board director.
Changes to fire hall service in Sparwood no longer allow first responders to accidents unless Jaws of Life are needed, Qualizza said.
“Given the high impact of our fire department on motor vehicle accidents, do you feel that it would impact our department? For our response, would we have to go further out, or can you walk me through implications that would impact our fire department before we make a decision?”
Ruiter had no comment for Qualizza about Sparwood, mentioning that some individual communities use search and rescue for auto extrication but had no specifics on that particular situation.
He spoke to concerns over response to motor vehicle incidents in boundary areas between Hosmer and the City of Fernie and Fernie down towards Elko that were brought forth for discussion by council.
“The fire station in Hosmer has basic skills; one is not auto extrication so we would respond based on our provincial emergency program. They would assist in traffic control and possibly stabilization of the vehicle and basic first aid. Elko, at the other end of the scale, is a new department, and they haven’t been down auto extrication, and they would need support from us,” said Ruiter.
General guidelines in the contract address some of these issues, outlining that resources provided to a neighbouring fire department are allowed as long as they do not interfere with the protection of the primary community.
“These decisions will be at the discretion of myself on maintaining adequate resources, so we can always provide an appropriate response for any situations here in Fernie,” said Ruiter.