A fire structure protection unit responds to a call in Campbell River. Mayors from smaller communities are voicing their need for more provincial funding to cope with the rising cost of fire services and equipment. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror.

A fire structure protection unit responds to a call in Campbell River. Mayors from smaller communities are voicing their need for more provincial funding to cope with the rising cost of fire services and equipment. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror.

B.C.’s smaller communities want a better solution for funding fire protection

Rural mayors asking the province for help with the rising cost of equipment and training

A group of B.C. mayors is looking to collectively approach the province for funds as smaller municipalities are having a tough time sustaining the cost of fire service.

With the availability of fire services directly affecting insurance rates, municipal governments are compelled to have a fully functioning fire department in their communities.

But the cost dilemma is beginning to catch up to communities with smaller populations where these services can leave a million-dollar dent in their budgets.

From buying fire trucks and equipment to covering the cost of training exercises for volunteer firefighters, the local government is responsible for covering it all.

A new fire truck cost Port Hardy $1.2 million in 2018. The ongoing Cumberland fire hall project will cost $4.2 million. These are big ticket items for municipalities like Port Hardy with a population of 4,132 and Cumberland with 3,753.

Port Hardy’s mayor Dennis Dugas and Cumberland’s mayor Leslie Baird both said repeated requests for funding support has not resonated with the province.

“It’s a big hit on the taxpayers in a small community for just one piece of equipment,” said Dugas, adding that communities cannot afford to not have these services as the insurance rates would otherwise be extremely high.

Meanwhile, the cost of training volunteer firefighters can very quickly “eat up a large component” of municipalities’ budgets, said Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom.

The government lays down the mandates with respect to the shelf line of equipment/fire trucks as well as the requisite training for volunteers ( as prescribed in Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook).

“The standards are set by the province, but the municipality’s ability to meet those standards are not supported,” said Coun. Sarah Fowler from Tahsis.

As the newly elected small communities representative at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), Fowler said that these are especially important issues that need to be addressed and can be an “antidote to rural shrinkage.”

These municipalities are looking for a permanent source of “fire-funding” from the province. Since 1990, the UBCM has endorsed several requests to address these issues before the provincial government. Most of these endorsements have been unsuccessful.

According to Dugas the province ought to pay smaller communities money from the B.C. Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) which he said was originally meant to fund fire services. The IPT in the province is currently at 4.4 per cent and extends to include automobile, property insurance and forest firefighting services among others.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said that the revenue generated from the IPT goes into general revenue that supports all of the programs and services people rely on including healthcare and education.

“As this revenue can shift year to year, it may not match the fire service needs of B.C. communities,” said ministry spokesperson Marielle Tounsi.

The government also provides stable funding for programs like the Community Resiliency Investment Program that was introduced in 2018, said Tounsi. As part of this program, FireSmart Community funding is administered through the Union of BC Municipalities.

The most recent stream of Community Emergency Preparedness funding for volunteer and composite fire department was introduced by the province in May 2019.

Proponents, including First Nations communities, local governments and society-run departments, are able to apply for their share of $5 million to go towards equipment and training.

“The intent of this funding stream is to build the resiliency of volunteer and composite fire departments through the purchase of new or replacement equipment and to facilitate the delivery of training,” said Tounsi.

In addition, the Community Gaming Grants program provides funding to not-for-profit organizations that enhance and support the safety of the community through the Public Safety sector, including volunteer firefighting organizations. Applications for this sector are open annually between July 1 and Aug. 31.

firefightersinsurancevancouverisland

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Emma Garriott is releasing her second album titled ‘Sad White Girl Angst.’ (Emma Garriott / Facebook photo)
North Island musician releases second album titled ‘Sad White Girl Angst’

“When you hear it, I want you to feel like your best friend in the whole world is sitting beside you’

North Island mayors say their voices should be heard by DFO before final decisions are made about fish farms. (Black Press file photo)
Mayors asking to be let in on fish farm consultations

DFO evaluating 18 Discovery Island fish farms and transitioning from open-net farms

Broughton Curling Club. (Clint Fiske photo)
Broughton Curling Club might end season by mid-December

The club is weighing the options and will see what the turnout continues to look like week by week.

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Freighter anchored off Kin Beach in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
MP to host expert panel for virtual town hall on freighter anchorages issue

Residents can participate through MacGregor’s website or Facebook page Dec. 3

Lake Cowichan’s Oliver Finlayson, second from left, and his family — including grandma Marnie Mattice, sister Avery, mom Amie Mattice and dad Blair Finlayson — were all smiles on Nov. 16 when their pool arrived, thanks to lots of fundraising and the generosity of the Cowichan Lake community. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Lake community comes together to help family get vital pool

Oliver Finlayson, 9, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hydrotherapy is a big help

Most Read