Salmon Arm council may be taking its support for the city’s Rapattack base to a new level.
Extension of natural gas lines to the base are what Mayor Alan Harrison says is the next plan.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO) informed council in October 2016 that the room and board option at the base, which was established in the 1970s, was to be cancelled. Catering at the barracks was to end on Jan. 1, 2017 and accommodation on Jan. 1, 2018. (During the 2015 fire season, six aircrew staff and 36 rappel staff were housed onsite.)
The removal of catering proceeded in January 2017, but in September the new provincial government said it would be reviewing accommodation availability for crews.
Then-Coun. Harrison and Coun. Chad Eliason went to Victoria to lobby for support for the local base, something they’ve continued to do.
To date, accommodation remains at the site, and crews can buy groceries and cook meals in the commercial kitchen still located there.
Harrison explains that council and staff will meet with FLNRO Minister Doug Donaldson at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention in September.
Rapattack will be one of the topics.
Quite often local politicians go to ask the ministers for something for the community or perhaps to express appreciation for something well done, but this time will be a little different, Harrison says.
“This time we are going with something,” he says, explaining that bringing in natural gas lines and possibly extending water service from the main buildings to the cabins will be reaffirming the city’s support of Rapattack.
Propane is now used, so natural gas would be more reliable and cost effective.
“We will be sharing… our willingness to invest in infrastructure at the Rapattack base.”
The plan would still need to garner support at the city’s budget table in the fall, but Harrison says council is willing.
The hope is that the cabins, if they have heat and water, could make the base more comfortable for crews and more usable for seminars and training by Wildfire BC in the shoulder seasons.
“We are going to make it more viable,” he said.
An example Harrison gives to help illustrate the idea is the shooting range in South Canoe.
RCMP come from all over the province to train, he says.
“Rapattack is valued by the residents of Salmon Arm, it is an important employer and ensures quick response to wildfires in our region. We will continue to support it to ensure the base continues to operate out of our airport.”