July 22nd., 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 29
Hillcrest fire hall to reopen by the end of the summer
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Contributor Photo
Hillcrest Fire Station number 22.
Pass Herald Reporter

By the end of the summer, Hillcrest will have its own fire station since a bitter restructuring of the Pass’ emergency services saw the firing of a longtime fire chief, the resignation of dozens of volunteer firefighters and its closure.

Interim fire chief Curtis Stevens said it wouldn’t take much work to get the station operational, just some cleanout of old storage and a few equipment upgrades and the place will be open by the end of August.

Its primary piece of equipment will be a brush truck, which Stevens explained is a rapid response, off-road capable vehicle designed to combat wild land fires but can also be used to fight structure fires.

“There are a few situations where a truck like that can get to the scene quicker,” said Stevens in a telephone interview. “They can still spray water, they can grab a hose and hook that up to a hydrant and start an external attack. This gets some water moving in the event that the other first responding trucks are delayed for whatever reason and they can get eyes on the situation sooner and see what we’re dealing with.”

There are five volunteer members of the community’s fire/rescue services living in Hillcrest but the brush truck can only seat four, meaning one of the members will probably have to respond to the Bellevue station.

The fire stations at either end of the Pass in Coleman and now Hillcrest are equipped with brush trucks because that’s where they have the highest potential of being used, said Stevens.

Is there significant danger of a brush fire in Hillcrest?

“In 2003 there was,” explained Stevens in response to the Lost Creek Fire, “We have wild land areas all over the place. There hasn’t been an issue with risk prior to this but [reopening the station] has been on council’s agenda, so we’ve gone ahead and implemented it.”

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There will be no significant equipment purchases to open the station but the municipality will incur ongoing operational costs of about $5,000 to pay for lights, power and heat.

Up until 2012, each town in the Pass had its own distinct volunteer fire department but the previous council deemed the separate departments and a separate rescue squad "inefficient," as stated in a September 29, 2011 press release.

The previous council implemented a consolidation of the Hillcrest station with Bellevue and also voted for the amalgamation of resources and the consolidation of Crowsnest Pass Fire/Rescue into the Blairmore station. This decision united all emergency services including fire, ambulance, police, enforcement services and disaster emergency response into one Protective Services Department.

Blairmore’s former fire chief Jamie Margetak was "relieved of his active duty" by the municipality on Monday, October 1, 2012 and dozens of volunteer fire fighters resigned in protest.

In a Herald article published October, 11, 2012, Margetak expressed concerns about the organizational changes to the Pass’ emergency services.

“I think it was poorly handled,” he said.

July 22nd. ~ Vol. 85 No. 29
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