Citing legal risks, the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) has determined 10 volunteer independent fire departments within the region will no longer be eligible for CRD grants for assistance.
Those fire departments are in Big Lake, Horsefly, Chimney Felker Lake, Greeny Lake, Tyee Lake, Hawkins Lake, Likely, McLeese Lake, Riske Creek and Watch Lake-North Green Lake.
The move comes after the CRD received legal opinion highlighting the CRD’s exposure to legal risks with regard to grants for assistance, noted a CRD news release Friday.
“This was a hard decision, and our board thought long and hard before taking this step,” CRD chief administrative officer John MacLean stated.
“Given the totality of the information we have received we felt we would be putting the district and its taxpayers at risk if we maintained the status quo.”
The CRD sought advice and direction from other regional districts looking at similar circumstances, its legal advisors, and the Office of the Fire Commissioner before making the decision, made mostly because of the fact three of the halls are member societies and seven are unincorporated societies.
The CRD has concerns that providing grants for assistance may be seen as support for the independent departments.
“This leaves the regional district open to lawsuits if it is perceived as an ‘authority having jurisdiction’ — liable for actions taken by an independent volunteer fire department,” the news statement noted.
CRD communications manager Chris Keam said all of the impacted fire departments knew about the change.
Five of the 10 independent fire departments had applied for grants for assistance this year, he added.
We have reached out for an interview with CAO John MacLean.