RDEK looking at fire protection for Wardner

The RDEK provides regional government services throughout the East Kootenay. - Submitted photo
The RDEK provides regional government services throughout the East Kootenay.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Rural areas in Bull River, Wardner and the Mayook valley currently do not have fire protection, but the RDEK is looking to those residents to look at options for the future.

Rob Gay, the RDEK board of directors, recently attended a public meeting in Wardner with staff to discuss what people are comfortable with, as any kind of fire protection will carry a cost.

“Right now, if there’s a fire in Wardner, nobody comes,” Gay said. “They insure their homes accordingly, so when you are rural, you are considered unprotected and if you heat with wood or in a log house, you pay thousands of dollars in insurance.

“So what happens when you have fire protection, some insurance companies will recognize it. They won’t call you fully covered, but they’ll call you semi-covered.

“The other thing people think is that the wildland people will come out and put out a house fire, but they’re not trained for that, they won’t do it. If there’s a grass fire that’s coming towards your house, they’ll help, but their first priority is the crown lands and not the private property.”

Options include creating a brand new fire department like what the RDEK did with Elko, but that requires about 15 volunteers to successfully implement.

Fire service also includes a first responder component, Gay added.

“We know first responders; it’s busier than fires, we don’t get a lot of fires,” Gay said. “We do get highway accidents, health issues, so first responder is pretty important.

“What they do is go stabilize the people and then wait for the ambulance, so the ambulance still comes, but the first responder is able to deal with the issue right there.”

One option is using Wardner as a satellite area for the Jaffray Fire Department.

“If people support this, if there’s a fire in Wardner, a truck from Jaffray will respond. We’ll also have a second truck in the community,” Gay said.

Gay said the meeting, which included dinner, saw a turnout with roughly 80 people, four of which are committed to taking the required first-responder training. Any kind of plan will require a vote by the residents.

“With that, we’re going to go back in May, let people digest this — they want to know cost and how we will do it — then we’ll go over it with the community and say this is what we’d like to do and see what they want to do,” Gay said.

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