On February 26, 2020 the Peace River Regional District hosted an Open House at the Charlie Lake Community Hall to discuss and gain feedback from the community on the possibility of the Charlie Lake Fire Department providing first medical responder and/or road rescue services in the Charlie Lake Fire Protection Area.
Following the February 2020 Open House, and after reviewing the returned surveys, the Regional Board agreed to move forward with an elector assent process to determine if property owners in the Charlie Lake Fire Protection Area are in favour or not in favour of first medical responder and/or road rescue services.
There are two services in question (first medical responder services, road rescue services) and they are being posed separately. This lets taxpayers decide if they are favour of one, both or neither of the services.
The proposed services and estimated costs are outlined in the information package. Please note that the costs have been re-evaluated as a number of months have passed since quotes were received for equipment. The current information reflects those changes.
Why are these services being proposed?
In BC, road rescue and first medical responder (FMR) services are often delivered by fire departments or non-profit rescue organizations. In some areas, these services are delivered through contracts with municipal fire departments, or they are delivered by rural fire departments (if approved by electors).
In the case of Charlie Lake, the Charlie Lake Fire Protection service was established by a vote of the electors in 1980, but only the provision of fire protection was approved; road rescue and FMR services were not included. From then until now, only activities related to fire protection have been provided by the Charlie Lake Fire Department.
The Charlie Lake Fire Department members are deeply committed to serving the community and have the majority of the training needed to provide both road rescue and FMR in the fire protection area. It is important to note that the Fort St John Fire Department currently provides road rescue service to the Charlie Lake fire protection area and is reimbursed for the service by the provincial government
What is a petition process?
Property owners in an electoral area can petition the Regional District for a service. The proposed service area may either be the whole electoral area or only a portion of it. A Regional District is not required to proceed with a service even if it receives a valid petition; however, in many cases petitions lead to the establishment of a service.
What is the criteria that determines if a petition is to pass?
For a petition to be valid, it must be signed by owners of at least 50 percent of the parcels that would be liable to pay for the proposed service that represent at least 50 percent of the assessed value of land and improvements that would be in the proposed service area.
I am an eligible voter but not a property owner in the service area. Can I return a petition?
No. Only property owners are eligible to sign and return a petition, because they will be taxed directly for the service.
What happens if one or both of the petitions pass?
If one or both of the petitions pass, the information will be brought back to the Regional Board, along with an amendment to the current service establishment bylaw. Upon approval and three readings of the bylaw, it will be forwarded to the Ministry of Municipal Services and Housing for approval. Once the Ministry provides approval for the bylaw, then it will be forwarded to the Regional Board for final adoption. Upon adoption of the bylaw, the service(s) would be provided starting in 2021.
What happens if one or more of the petitions do not pass?
If the Regional District does not receive enough petitions to meet the above threshold, then the Electoral Area Director may recommend to the Regional Board to either:
consider whether to hold a referendum in the future and ask the service area whether they are in favour or not, of one or both, of the proposed services.
consider whether to change the service proposal and initiate another elector approval process
consider whether to not move forward with the proposed service(s) in any way.
What if I am in favour of only one of the services?
If you are in favour of only one of the services moving forward, please only return the petition that is specific to that service.
Who do I contact for more information?
For more information about the proposed service or questions about the petition process contact us at:
Call: David Sturgeon, Protective Services Manager, at 250 784-3222
The deadline for petitions was December 7, 2020 and the PRRD allowed an additional two weeks for receipt of any that were mailed/postmarked on or before December 7th, given the slow speed of mail with the Christmas season.
As of Monday, December 21st, there were insufficient responses received to indicate that the residents who receive the service, in the service area, are in favour of expanding the Charlie Lake Fire Department Service beyond fire suppression, to include either road rescue, or medical first response services.
In order to be deemed sufficient, as per the Local Government Act Section 337 (3) petitions from at least 50% of the parcels, representing 50% of the assessed value, must be submitted. The Board will be provided with an official certification of the petition responses as required by the Local Government Act Section 337 (3) and (4) and the Community Charter Section 212 (4) to (6) at the next regular Board meeting, January 14, 2021.
The following is the ‘unofficial’ results until they are received by the Board:
|Total number of eligible properties: 1859|
|Number of Properties In favour||Percentage of Properties In favour|
|First Medical Responder||392||+/- 21 %|
|Road Rescue Services||372||+/- 20%|
There were 6 petitions received for first medical responder, that were not counted, as they were either not received nor postmarked prior to December 7, for the First Medical Responder, and 5 that were not counted for the Road Rescue Services, for the same reason.
Virtual Town Hall
Date Held: Monday, November 23, 2020
Time: 6 – 8 pm
Thank you to everyone that joined the Virtual Town Hall. A video from the meeting can be found by clicking here.
Estimated Costs for Proposed New Services
based on 2020 current assessments
Taxes collected for the Charlie Lake Fire Department service pay for:
- Training new and existing members
- Purchasing equipment and supplies
- Testing and maintaining equipment to ensure that it is safe and meets NFPA and WCB requirements
- Contributing funds to a capital reserve to replace equipment in the future as it ages out
- Use of water from hydrants
- Public education and prevention
- Overhead: wages, building maintenance, volunteer pay, licenses and utilities
Current 2020 / Proposed 2021 Tax Rates
In order to provide road rescue and first medical response, the PRRD must receive approval from property owners. If approved, these services would result in tax increases for property owners within the Charlie Lake fire protection area. The figures below show the current 2020 tax rate and the proposed 2021 tax rate including Road Rescue and FMR.
Operated directly by the Peace River Regional District since 2012, the Charlie Lake Fire Department currently provides fire protection services to the communities of Charlie Lake and Grandhaven. The Department is staffed by a full time fire chief and full time deputy fire chief and boasts an annual membership of approximately 30 highly trained volunteer firefighters.
Training: Firefighters are trained to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard of 1001 level 2. This is the same level as full-time, career firefighters in municipal fire departments. This training takes approximately 12 months to complete and is only the start of their training. Firefighters continue to expand their knowledge and skills throughout their entire career in the fire service by training on forcible entry, pumps and pumping, emerging technology, strategies and tactics, and new safety procedures. Training is conducted every Thursday evening throughout the year with specialty courses often being provided over weekends.
Level of service: Due to the high level of training that the department achieves and maintains, the Department is considered a full-service fire department as defined by the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner. This is the same level of service as most “career” fire departments achieve. This means that they are trained to conduct both exterior and interior fire suppression and fire rescue services.
Equipment: Currently the Charlie Lake Fire Department utilizes:
- Two command vehicles (4×4 pickups) – one is utilized during wildfire season as a brush truck and has small water tank with pump and wild land firefighting tools
- One dedicated brush truck set up for wildfire response
- One side x side wildfire response unit equipped with small water tank with pump and wildfire fighting tools
- One rescue vehicle with rope rescue and fire fighter rehab and decontamination
- Two engines
- Engine 1 – 2020 Spartan / Hub, 1000 gal water tank and 1250GPM Pump
- Engine 2 – 2006 Sterling Hub, 2000 gal water tank and 1050 GPM pump.
- Three water tenders
- Tender 1 – 2012 Rosenbauer with 1500 gal water tank
- Tender 2 – 2020 Freightliner / Fort Garry with 1500 gal water tank and 1050GPM Pump
- Tender 3 – 1996 International with 1500 gal water tank
Note that front-line equipment is generally replaced at 20 years of age in order to maintain requirements set out by the Fire Underwriters of Canada (so that homes and businesses can receive credits on their insurance) and to ensure maximum operability. Equipment greater than 20 years of age may continue be used to support the front line equipment. Given that Charlie Lake Fire Protection area only has two low flow hydrants, it is important to maintain and utilize our older equipment to shuttle water during a fire response.
Current level of service:
- Structural fire protection: responding to fires impacting homes, farms and businesses
- Interface fire protection: responding to fires in the interface between the community and the forest lands. Often local fire departments will work closely with the BC Wildfire service.
- Prevention and public education: conducting reviews with businesses in the area to learn about their structures and any hazards that may exist which could impact the strategies employed during a fire response; conducting public education through open houses, classroom visits, etc.
Average response times: In 2019, the Charlie Lake Fire Department’s average response time was 11 minutes to arrive on scene.
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 that provide the service often only respond to Red, Purple and Orange calls only when ambulances are significantly delayed.
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 to 50 per cent or up to an additional 35 to 50 calls per year. Currently the Department responds to 100 to 115 calls per year. Typically most FMR calls take place between 10:00 am and midnight each day and most daytime 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 to 10 members would need to be re-certified/licensed 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 $11,424 with start-up costs of $27,350.
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 to 20 calls per year, with calls having an average duration of 60 minutes.
In order to provide the service, members would maintain auto extrication training which will cost $19,700 per year. Equipment to perform the service would include upgraded auto extrication tools at a cost of $46,800. Members would continue FMR training in order to treat patients involved in a vehicle accident should the Department arrive on scene prior to BC Ambulance. Purchase of automatic external defibrillator (AEDs) would be needed for all front line vehicles at a cost of $6,000 with a variety of consumables to be replaced as needed.
The overall cost of the service on an annual basis is estimated at $19,700 with start-up costs of $46,800.