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.

Small town Vancouver Island feeling burned by high cost of 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.

RELATED: B.C. communities call for wildfire prevention help

RELATED: Mount Washington residents finally get fire protection

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.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

firefightersinsurancevancouverisland

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read