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$26,000 bill prompts Shuswap community to explore adding to fire fleet

Chase council to research costs, revenue of Structural Protection Unit
After getting a $26,000 bill for the use of a Structural Protection Unit during last year’s wildfires, Chase council has authorized staff to research costs and possible revenue from from purchasing one such as this one owned by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. (CSRD photo)

After the village received an invoice of several thousand dollars for use of a Structure Protection Unit from the Chase Firefighters Association during the 2023 wildfires, council has directed staff to research the purchase of one.

In a report to council at the May 14 meeting, Chase Coun. Dan Stevens pointed out the $26,000 bill from the association, and suggested looking into costs, possible funding sources and the potential revenue a unit could generate for the community.

“The $26,000 was half, or roughly half, of what could have been billed, so that just goes to show how much revenue these trailers can make for the Village of Chase,” he told council. “We are raising taxes and fees here… and we owe it to the community to build revenue for them, to ease their burden.”

The bill itself, however, created some confusion among the public of perceived double dipping as the fire department is funded through taxation.

“I am appalled at the fact that this fire department is charging us for something that we pay them on a regular basis to do,” local Rick Berrigan said during public input. “It’s putting profit ahead of protection and they’ve been doing this for years. It’s time that we started holding them accountable for something they’re supposed to be doing.”

Chief administrative officer Joni Heinrich offered clarification, explaining the fire department is funded and run by the village, whereas the Firefighters Association was started as a society years ago to a provide road rescue services before Chase took it over. While a lot of the department members are also on the association, she said they are still two separate entities.

The association continues to exist and fundraise to purchase equipment, and a few years ago also got a grant to buy the trailer and equipment for the Structural Protection Unit, which was used to protect nine key buildings in Chase during the fires.

“So if the fire association didn’t have this, we would have had to bring it in from out of town and pay someone from out of town,” Mayor David Lepsoe pointed out. “And this way here, this $26,000 stays in Chase and the fire department uses that money to buy more equipment?”

That was confirmed, though in his report, Stevens said the recent collaboration revealed the association’s trailer doesn’t meet BC Wildfire standards for deployment.

Council unanimously approved the motion to have staff research costs and possible revenue for the potential purchase of a Class II Structure Protection Unit, which according to the inter-agency agreement between the Fire Chiefs’ Association and BC Wildfire has a deployment rate of $3,994 per day.

Read more: Columbia Shuswap Regional District adding truck to firefighting fleet

Read more: Wildfire efforts highlighted in Columbia Shuswap Regional District report

About the Author: Heather Black

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