Background

The Peace River Regional District is seeking the community’s opinion on whether to provide road rescue and first medical response services in your area.

In rural areas of BC structural fire protection is provided by fire departments through contract with neighboring municipalities or non-profit societies or directly delivered by regional districts or improvement districts. Only those rural communities that have received elector approval for the service (i.e., have gone to a vote or other elector approval process), receive the service and as such not all areas of rural BC receive fire protection.

Road rescue and first medical responder (FMR) services are often delivered by fire departments or non-profits “rescue” organizations. In some instances, these services are delivered through contract with municipal fire departments or they may be delivered by rural fire departments if approved by the electors.

In the case of the Charlie Lake Fire Department, in 1980 when the Charlie Lake Fire Protection service was established by a vote of the electors, only the provision of fire protection was approved. Therefore at this time, only those activities related to “fire protection” can be provided by the Department.

If there is sufficient interest from the community to provide additional services such as road rescue and/or first medical responder then the Regional District will undertake an elector approval process to amend the bylaw that outlines the scope of services provided by the Department to the service area.

Public Meeting

What is Road Rescue?

In BC when there is a vehicle accident on a public roadway that requires rescue services, fire departments or non-profit road rescue associations attend the scene to assist BC Ambulance and/or the RCMP to conduct the safe rescue of patients and ensure that they are transferred into the care of BC Ambulance. Road rescue areas have defined boundaries where rescue organizations (fire departments or associations) respond to ensure that there is no duplication or overlap.

These rescue organizations are reimbursed by the Province of BC in accordance with their road rescue reimbursement policies to respond to calls outside of their fire protection areas, however, the amount reimbursed often falls short of the cost to provide the service. As such local taxpayers often must subsidize the service through taxation to provide the service within their fire protection areas, as they do throughout BC today.

In the North Peace the following fire departments provide this service:
Hudson’s Hope – Hudson’s Hope to Attachie
Taylor – portion of Baldonnel and Two Rivers to Kiskatinaw Bridge
Fort St John – portion of Baldonnel and Two Rivers to the Sikanni Chief Bridge
Fort Nelson – Sikanni Chief Bridge to the border

Currently the Charlie Lake Fire Department does not provide road rescue services within or outside of their fire protection boundaries. If the Department were to provide road rescue services within their fire protection area (and any expanded areas), it would mean the department would respond to an extra 15-20 calls per year, with calls having an average duration of 60 minutes.

In order to provide the service, members will maintain auto extrication training at an estimated annual cost of $2,500. Equipment to perform the service would include auto extrication tools at a cost of approximately $37,000 which would need to be purchased and replaced generally every 10 years. Members would also need to continue with FMR training in order to treat patients involved in a vehicle accident should the Department arrive on scene prior to BC Ambulance. Small upgrades to medical kits and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) would be needed for all front line vehicles at a cost of approximately $10,000 with a variety of the supplies replaced each year.

The overall cost of the service on an annual basis is estimated at $23,500 with start-up costs of $47,000.

What is First Medical Response?

First Medical Response (FMR) is performed by a number of fire departments in BC who supplement and support ambulatory services provided by BC Ambulance. Typically fire departments who provide the service often only respond to Red, Purple and Orange calls only when the ambulances will be significantly delayed (see below).

In doing so, these fire departments often are dispatched automatically when there is a Purple or Red call and if arriving on scene prior to BC Ambulance, they will provide care to the patient until BC Ambulance can arrive to continue to care for the patient and transport them to the nearest hospital. Some fire departments would also respond to other types of calls if requested by BC Ambulance when they anticipate a prolonged delay in their own response.

If Charlie Lake Fire Department were to provide the service in the existing fire protection area and any expanded areas, it is estimated that it would increase the department’s total call volume by 35-50% or up to an additional 35-50 calls per year – currently, the Department responds to 100-115 calls per year. Typically most FMR calls take place between 10:00 am and mid-night each day and most day-time calls would be responded to by existing Department staff.

In accordance with WCB requirements, a number of Charlie Lake Fire Department members are currently trained to provide medical assistance to their own members in the case of an injury while responding to a call, however, 5-10 members would need to be trained or re-certified each year at a cost of $50/person in addition to annual supplies.

Note that fire departments who provide this service do not receive any financial reimbursement of costs from the Province of BC or any provincial agency. The cost to provide the service is solely borne by the local tax payer, however, much of the training and equipment costs are already included in the annual budget as per WCB requirements.

The overall cost of the service on an annual basis is estimated at $30,250 with start-up costs of $10,000.