Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation emergency preparedness co-ordination Celena Cook drops the Nations fire truck in for an inspection and service with Lawrence Charnell at Erik Larsen Diesel. Ucluelet will start providing fire protection services to the neighbouring First Nation community following a unanimous decision by Ucluelet’s municipal council on Feb. 12. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

District of Ucluelet and YuułuʔiłʔatḥFirst Nation announce fire protection agreement

"It's a fantastic start about helping our neighbours."

  • Feb. 22, 2019 12:00 a.m.

A fire protection services agreement between the YuułuʔiłʔatḥFirst Nation (YFN) and the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade (UVFB) was announced during the Feb. 12 regular council meeting.

The new agreement states that the UVFB will provide structural fire support to the First Nations community of Hitacu, located across the harbour from Ucluelet. The term of the agreement is for a period of two years, and renewable afterwards.

“If there is smoke and fire in a structure, we are there,” said Ucluelet’s fire and emergency co-ordinator Cpt. Alan Anderson.

YFN emergency preparedness co-ordination Celena Cook said Hitacu has only had two small fires since the Nation’s fire department became inactive in 2016.

“[The agreement] takes the pressure off, worrying about wood stoves and other small fires,” said Cook.

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She had YFN’s truck, an old fire engine from the UVFB, was inspected and serviced by Lawrence Charnell at Erik Larsen Diesel last week.

“We’re looking to rebuild our fire department. I have been reaching out to the UVFB with all my questions,” she said. “We haven’t officially talked about training with them, but they did give the option to train with them.”

Ucluelet’s mayor and council unanimously approved the new fire protection agreement for YFN.

“It’s a fantastic start about helping our neighbours,” said mayor Mayco Noël.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s been a conversation that’s been around for a couple years.”

Councillor Rachelle Cole noted that the new service agreement with YFN is for structural fires only and not first responder calls. The terms of the agreement state that the YFN government will compensate the District of Ucluelet $5,000 per year for fire protection services.

The UVFB has also established several other service agreements in the Alberni-Clayoquot Region and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Millstream and Willowbrae Road area, for example, are covered under the fire services agreement with the ACRD. The Sutton Road area in Port Albion, the community neighbouring Hitacu, is not covered under the agreement with the ACRD.

“That area is not on our coverage territory,” confirmed Cpt. Anderson.

Cook said YFN is open to recruiting volunteer firefighters that live on Sutton Road. She said a service agreement for the Sutton area would have to be discussed with the Regional District.

Cpt. Anderson pointed out that Hitacu is equipped with new fire hydrants while Sutton Road has no access to hydrants.

ACRD protective services manager Kelly Gilday told the Westerly News that across Canada, there is no requirement to have fire protection.

“There’s no legal requirement. The fire services act does not require you to have fire protect or fire services. A lot of people think that you need to have it, but it’s a service you decide that you want to provide as a community and then go down the pathway to try and put it in place,” said Gilday, adding that the only legal requirement for municipalities is to have fire inspections.

“If the Ucluelet First Nations wanted to have a fire service agreement for that community, then they would have to approach the ACRD to have that conversation,” said Gilday.

READ MORE: ‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire (Feb. 19, 2019)

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