Mayor Nancy Cooper and Salmon Arm councillors met with a representative of BC Wildfire Service in an effort to keep RapAttack firefighters housed on their base near the Salmon Arm airport.
The Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations announced their plans to discontinue food service and accommodation for RapAttack crews in early October.
Madeline Maley, executive director of the BC Wildfire Service met with Cooper and councillors Wallace Richmond, Flynn, Lavery and Harrison as well as Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley and Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) Fire Chief Kenn Mount on Oct. 31.
Cooper said she is optimistic about the results of the meeting but waiting for a reply from the wildfire service.
The stated reason for discontinuing housing and meal service is Salmon Arm is no longer remote enough to warrant on-base housing. Fire crews will have to seek rental housing off the base once housing is discontinued at the start of 2018.
“When they look at an area they look at rental housing within 30 minutes of the base, so for us that meant Sicamous and Enderby,” Cooper said. She told the BC Wildfire Representative about how difficult finding housing in Sicamous is in the summer and the traffic congestion which can form between Sicamous, Enderby and Salmon Arm.
Cooper said doesn’t think the food and housing on the base should be subsidized just provided to the fire crews at market value.
Mount also recognized the difficulties with finding housing, but added response times when assisting the CSRD’s rural fire departments is a concern for him.
Mount said in isolated areas such as Anglemont, the RapAttack crews can respond much faster in support of the CSRD fire department than other fire halls could on the ground.
“We definitely benefit from having the facility there” Mount said, “We’ll support the RapAttack base as best we can as far as expressing how important they are.”
Shirley is happy to hear there are no plans to close the base itself but worried about response times with fire fighters living off the base.
“I know for me in the fire business, the closer I have guys living to the fire hall the faster the response time we can get, and with fire seconds can literally make the difference,” he said.
Cooper said the 1998 wildfire is on people’s minds in Salmon Arm and having RapAttack nearby makes people feel safe.
“Hopefully she’ll review and we’ll get a positive response back and if not, we’ll continue to pursue it because we feel it’s very important to this area,” she said.