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’s at 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

Local MLA Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip Nation, here seen before the 2020 provincial election, said a new report finding “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system does not surprise Indigenous people. (Hansard TV)
MLA, Tsartlip member says ‘silo’ approach won’t work dealing with racism in health care

Adam Olsen calls for comprehensive approach in dealing with systemic racism

The University of Victoria will mark the eighth annual Giving Tuesday with its Add Sprinkles campaign which collects funds to support various student initiatives across campus. (Photo courtesy UVic Photo Services)
Nearly 150 Greater Victoria groups prepare for eighth annual Giving Tuesday

Last year Canadians raised nearly $22 million in 24 hours

A man was issued a $230 fine after refusing to wear a mask inside a Central Saanich business. (Central Saanich Police Services/Twitter)
Man issued fine after refusing to mask up in Central Saanich business

$230 ticket issued under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act

Aragon Properties’ proposed development for the corner of Cook and Pendergast streets in Cook Street Village was voted down by Victoria city council on Thursday night after a public hearing. (File contributed/ City of Victoria)
Lack of affordable housing spells end for Cook Street Village project in Victoria

Council narrowly defeats proposal for four-storey building on former Pic-A-Flic Video site

(Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Second driver facing impaired charges after View Royal traffic stop leads to loaded firearms

West Shore RCMP stop swerving motorist and Saanich woman who came to pick her up

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

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: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Left to right: A screenshot of NTC nurse navigator Lesley Cerney, FNHA regional mental health manager Georjeana Paterson and Island Health’s medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns addressing Ehattesaht community members from Ehatis reserve in a Facebook live update. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Medical team sent to Ehatis reserve near Zeballos to guide community through COVID outbreak

17 cases, eight recoveries and no hospitalizations as Island Health praises First Nation’s response

Most Read