Proposed fire service training standards concern CRD

Recent proposed changes to the BC Fire Service Minimum Training Standards Playbook have prompted action by the Cariboo Regional District.

Recent proposed changes to the BC Fire Service Minimum Training Standards Playbook have prompted action by the Cariboo Regional District.

Last month the CRD tasked chiefs of its rural fire departments to provide information on any training their members have completed.

“We do have some information but not all,” said CRD chair Al Richmond. “We need to get a complete picture so we can compare the courses they’ve taken with the standards in the playbook.”

The majority of the CRD’s rural fire departments have the exterior attack training, but are not faced with fighting fires inside apartment blocks or hospitals, Richmond said.

When the chiefs’ reports are submitted by June, the CRD will discover whether additional training is required.

Annual training budgets for each department fall between $5,000 to $25,000, depending on the department.

“Historically volunteers have difficulty getting time away from family to take some of the courses so quite often the amount of money in the training budget isn’t expended in a year,” Richmond said, noting there are challenges for volunteers to get the time off for training.

Many departments have trainers in-house who are qualified to teach and have an advantage because members don’t have to travel away for the training.

Another concern for the CRD is the playbook’s suggestion that local governments will have jurisdiction over all the fire departments in the region.

“We are saying no, we don’t have jurisdiction with those fire departments,” Richmond said.

“We don’t have relationships with those fire departments so we are really unable to verify their levels of training expertise and we don’t have staff to do it for them.”

Last month the CRD sent a letter to the fire commissioner asking for clarification about training levels and jurisdiction.

The CRD will also be investigating what other regional districts are doing with respect to fire-related safety inspections in the rural areas, and the implications of advising the fire commissioner’s office that CRD volunteers will no longer act in the capacity of local assistant fire commissioners.

“Whereas municipalities do undertake fire inspections, in the regional district we don’t conduct those, we don’t have a full-time fire chief to do that,” Richmos explained.

The CRD in previous discussions with the province has suggested it look at a model that employs electrical inspectors in rural areas to incorporate fire safety inspections as another responsibility.

The CRD does not have fire departments in all rural areas, Richmond added.