Three cabins burned down on Mount Washington in February 2015. File photo.

Mount Washington residents finally get fire protection

After many years of going without, ski hill condos have a fire department to protect them

The process has taken many years, but the condos and cabins situated on Mount Washington finally have fire protection.

On Nov. 29, the Comox Valley Regional District announced in a news release that the Oyster River Fire Rescue department will be the fire protection service provider for the Mount Washington resort community.

Starting on Dec. 1, Oyster River volunteer firefighters will respond to calls on the mountain.

“As a community, Mount Washington hasn’t had fire protection for many years,” said CVRD manager of fire services James Bast. “Through the guidance and input of the steering group, we were able to come up with a model that fit the community’s needs and had the highest likelihood of success.”

Oyster River fire chief Bruce Green said the department is excited to become the area’s fire service providers.

“It’s gonna be a challenge because we’ve never dealt with fires in the snow, but it’s something our members are looking forward to and it’s going to be good for our community and their community as well,” he said.

The lack of fire protection services on Mount Washington has been a “hot” topic for many years. A referendum on implementing a fire protection bylaw for the community failed in 2002.

The goal of establishing fire protection scored a win last September when another referendum passed with 84 per cent approval.

Read More: Referendum passes for Mount Washington fire protection services

The 2016 referendum result also authorized the CVRD to borrow $415,000 for the construction of a new fire hall on Mount Washington, set to begin in late 2018.

While structure fires have occurred sporadically on Mount Washington, the most well-known incident occurred in February 2015 when three chalets burned down. No one was injured in the incident, but residents could only watch on helplessly as the cabins went up in flames.

Read More: Fire destroys three Mt. Washington homes

Prior to this week’s announcement, the Courtenay Fire Department and the Oyster River Fire Department would only respond to calls on the mountain if there was an imminent risk to human life.

Only a few hundred people live on Mount Washington permanently, but many stay in short-term or vacation rentals every year. Green said two people who live in the area are currently training with the department.

“The intent is, ultimately, to have trained firefighters up there who are going to be able to respond if there is a fire up there,” said Green.

Due to the lack of fire protection services in the past, residents in the area pay high insurance premiums.

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