April 21st, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 20
Fire department meets council
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
Bern Sawatzky, a onetime member of the Coleman Fire Department, chose to stay on the force after the 2012 departmental integration.
“It’s been a challenge to go through this upheaval for everybody,” says Sawatzky. “But I appreciate the direction we’re going in and I’d like to ask for support. We care about the community, that’s why we do it.”
On May 13, Sawatzky and a delegation from the Crowsnest Pass Fire/Rescue Department made a presentation to council to talk about the newly integrated department.
The department has a total of 54 members, 26 joined before the departmental integration and 28 joined after. They have a fulltime fire chief, a contract deputy chief and live-in members at the station in Blairmore.
Cpt. Daryl Johnson says their senior personnel are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they offer advanced training for volunteer officers.
“In becoming an integrated service… we’ve got exemplary 24/7 coverage and we’re seeing rapid aggressive response,” says Johnson. “And as a result of the integration, the administrative [duties] have been lifted from our shoulders because we have a paid chief.”
Twelve of their members have basic fire training with 27 other members awaiting certification. Fifteen of their members have been trained in advanced live fire scenarios and examinations, with 12 members awaiting certification. On top of that, they have 16 members trained in hazardous materials operations and 37 members trained in vehicle extraction.
An extensive inventory assessment was done at every station and expired equipment was taken out, even if it was usable.
Johnson says there are national equipment standards that forced them to require serviceable equipment, including 50 sets of expired bunker gear.
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“It may be serviceable but from a certification, occupation and health and safety perspective we can’t use it,” says Johnson.
Some of the equipment, including the bunker gear, was donated to Firefighters Without Borders and will be redistributed to fire departments in the developing world.
All of their equipment is now standardized and all their main response vehicles have been equipped with portable GPS units.
“Our emergency response times meet all national standards,” says Johnson. “I think we’ve reduced the risk potential for the municipality.”
Siegbert Gail, a member of council during the 2012 departmental integration, says the decision to integrate was unpopular but necessary.
“The big thing is, since [the municipality] amalgamated in 1979 [integration] was never taken on,” says Gail. “Two councils previously started doing what we did but then backed off because the firemen put on the pressure.”
Members of the Rate Payers Association disagree, saying they see problems with the newly integrated force. At their general meeting on May 15, members discussed organizing a delegation and presenting their concerns to council.
“I am very concerned about the fire department,” says Ed Strembicki, President of the Ratepayers Association. “I think it’s not run right. I think it costs too much money.”
April 21st ~ Vol. 84 No. 20
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