Firefighter Joel Anthony (left) helps fellow Saanich firefighter Josh Ward spray down his gear after extinguishing a house fire in the 500-block of Walter Avenue. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Firefighter Joel Anthony (left) helps fellow Saanich firefighter Josh Ward spray down his gear after extinguishing a house fire in the 500-block of Walter Avenue. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Mutual aid talks fizzle between Greater Victoria fire departments

Victoria puts other core departments on notice

The City of Victoria has given notice that it will pull out of a 1980 mutual aid agreement between the core fire departments as talks for an updated agreement have stalled.

In 2015, the city reached out to Oak Bay, Saanich and Esquimalt indicating the Victoria Fire Department wanted to work together to renew the old mutual aid agreement, which was already more than 30 years old at the time and promoted an “out-of-date response model,” explained Bill Eisenhauer, head of engagement for the City of Victoria.

At the end of August, five years after opening the discussion, Victoria served notice that it will no longer be participating in the 1980 agreement at the end of 120 days. This news came as a surprise to Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch, Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

The four core municipalities have been in discussions for years and “waiting for the City of Victoria to come to the table,” so this notice came out of the blue, Haynes said. He added it’s likely a mediator will need to step in.

While it wasn’t a move Saanich Fire Chief Mike Burgess was expecting, he said he was happy to see it. He’s optimistic talks will finally move forward now that Victoria has implemented a deadline.

He emphasized the four fire departments need a mutual aid agreement because they don’t individually have the staff to meet industry standards for firefighters required at large fires.

ALSO READ: Saanich, Oak Bay announce new five-year policing agreement to share resources, control costs

Through collaboration, joint training and aligned procedures, the departments can ensure their approach to fire service is modern and provides citizens with the best service, he said.

Murdoch feels it may be time for the municipal governments to get involved to discuss “the right next step” and make a new firefighting agreement a priority. It’s been five years, we can do better and the agreement has to be modernized, he said.

The matter was brought to Esquimalt council Monday with Desjardins voicing concerns about it would mean for residents’ safety. She noted it’s unfortunate Victoria would opt out when the repercussions are unclear.

Esquimalt Fire Chief Chris Jancowski noted the township has mutual aid agreements with other municipalities and the Canadian Forces, which are enacted more often. With notice from Victoria, he said there’s a little more urgency now but there aren’t any insurmountable issues delaying a new agreement.

Eisenhauer emphasized Victoria is looking forward to ongoing discussions but noted that the 1980 agreement “has resulted in the potential for disproportionate costs to be borne by the City of Victoria in the absence of reciprocity.” To manage said costs while still providing effective regional fire service, Victoria has proposed a cost recovery strategy for future firefighting mutual aid.

Burgess said Saanich would be open to a fee-for-service model but noted the data doesn’t support the concept that one municipality’s service will be disproportionate. Jancowski, however, doesn’t support a cost-based aid model because he feels “a good neighbour approach” requires give and take. He added that over time, the aid will balance out between municipalities while fees would create red tape.

Murdoch added that while many modern mutual aid agreements include fee-for-service, he’s worried it could create hesitation when calling on other departments for help.

In the meantime, Oak Bay Fire Chief Darren Hughes noted that regardless of an agreement, the public is safe and fire service will not be impacted. The goal is to maintain or improve fire service through a new agreement not reduce protection for citizens.

Bilateral aid agreements between the individual municipalities’ fire departments will not be impacted.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

City of VictoriaEsquimaltfirefightersoak baySaanich

Just Posted

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Our view: Regular rescues should not be required

Still far too many incidents of people putting themselves at risk

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

COVID cases in the Bella Coola Valley have dropped to just four active cases (file photo)
Expanding social circles fuelling North Island COVID-19 spike

Comox Valley COVID spike the result of ‘a series of multiple social gatherings’

Stephen Nutt, left, and mom Julia Mewhort. (Submitted photo)
Mom worries about treatment delays after son’s drug death in Parksville

Stephen Nutt died from fentanyl laced with methamphetamine and heroin while in supportive housing

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Nanaimo Courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)
Motorist sentenced to two years for dangerous driving causing death on Gabriola Island

William Goosman pleaded guilty last fall in connection with incident that killed Jay Dearman

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Stock photo
COVID-19 cases reported at Nanaimo’s Mountain View, Aspengrove schools

Public and independent schools report exposures of virus Feb. 16, Feb. 18-19 respectively

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Most Read