Delivery of Fire Services a Local Government Decision

Local governments should decide what delivery model and fire service types are offered in their communities. This was finding of the recent report issued by the Province titled, Improving Fire Services: The Office of the Fire Commissioner's Response to the FSLG Report [PDF - 712 KB].

The need to collaborate and strengthen the partnership between local government and the Province was also emphasized in the report. To further this goal, a Fire Service Advisory Committee will be established to provide advice and develop guidelines and best practices, and a voluntary fire department registry will be created.

The Province's report is in response to the 2010 report from the Fire Services Liaison Group (FSLG), which listed 14 recommendations for improving fire and rescue in BC.

A commitment was made to continue to provide funding and work with the Local Government Management Association (LGMA), Justice Institute of BC (JIBC) and other agencies to provide training for fire departments. The Fire Commissioners Office indicated that it would continue to provide advice and guidance with respect to firefighter training standards.

In addition, a commitment was made by the Province to work with UBCM in the future to address Regional District concerns related to the delivery of fire services, and to review and update reimbursement rates for rescue tasks and wildfire mobilizations.

Changes to the Fire Services Act are also under consideration that would strengthen the authority of the Fire Commissioner and the Fire Commissioner's core mandate to facilitate and coordinate fire protection (e.g. to order the closure of a dilapidated building that is being occupied as a flop house, where fires have occurred on-premise).

The Province has indicated that it is looking at increasing flexibility in the fire inspection process. It's also considering including risk-based and owner responsible inspection systems, and will review extending immunity to local governments with fire departments, similar to legislation in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

UBCM supports the collaborative approach the Province has taken on this issue, and has highlighted further changes that it needs to consider:

· increased funding to assist in the training of firefighters, particularly in small communities and rural areas.

· increased reimbursement rates to cover local government costs in providing rescue services and other emergency services.

· ongoing flexibility in the building regulatory system so that local governments are able to respond to local needs.

· increased measures to address the liability concerns local government has identified (i.e. joint and several liability).

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