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How will the contracted fire department respond to a fire within the proposed Mt. Washington fire service?

The proposed Mount Washington fire service includes the following:

  • On report of a fire on Mount Washington, the contracted fire department would be dispatched by 911.
  • That fire department would respond in a passenger vehicle, carrying firefighters and their personal protective equipment
    • A passenger vehicle is expected to have a quicker response time than a fire engine. • These firefighters would access the Mount Washington firefighting equipment located on Mount Washington. o If Mount Washington volunteers are available, they may be able to set up the equipment at the scene prior to the firefighter’s arrival. 
  • The firefighters would attack the fire under the direction of their incident commander.
Why do we need a building?

The proposed service includes an agreement with either Courtenay, Cumberland or Oyster River fire department for firefighting services only. As recommended by the fire chiefs of those three jurisdictions’ departments, the proposed service includes a 30x50 garage-style building with heat, security, water and power. The firefighters would arrive by passenger vehicle in their turn-out gear, access the equipment stored at Mount Washington and respond to the fire. The fire chiefs have indicated they do not recommend entering into a service agreement that requires them to bring their fire engines and all of the required equipment up the mountain as the slope and terrain have, in the past, caused mechanical challenges, as well as slowed the response time.

The passenger vehicle in which they respond will have just enough room for the firefighters and their personal gear, and therefore safe, secure, on-mountain storage of firefighting equipment and apparatus would be a requirement of the service agreement.

Are there no cheaper options for a building?

As part of the study, other storage options were investigated, including the use of shipping containers modified to have heat, security, water and power to store and properly maintain vehicles and equipment. Modifying containers to any significant extent requires certification by engineers, which increases costs significantly. In this instance, a local (Vancouver Island) supplier recommended conventional construction over extensive modifications. In addition, the lifespan of the containers is estimated at 20 years if purchased new, whereas a conventional building can be expected to last 50 to 60 years. Construction of a garage also allows for expansion into a small fire hall in the future and/or accommodation of additional fire apparatus (e.g. small, used fire engine) and equipment, as needed.

Why do we need ATVs and a pick-up truck?

The fire chiefs have advised that a combination of vehicles that would serve the whole community would be required for a community-wide fire service. That combination of vehicles could include ATVs with tracks or similar vehicle for areas with no road access, and a pick-up truck for areas farther away, but with road access. The pick-up is proposed as a start-up solution until capital reserves begin to accumulate and purchase of a used engine becomes more affordable.

Why can’t Mount Washington simply sign a mutual aid type of agreement with a fire department in a neighbouring community, and they bring all the necessary equipment?

Mutual aid is a reciprocal agreement of emergency response between communities with established fire departments. It is commonly activated when the fire or emergency is beyond the capability of the local fire department, and more resources are required from a mutual aid partner. Mount Washington does not have an established local fire department through which to enter into a mutual aid agreement.

Is $5000 enough to train on-mountain volunteers?

The proposed budget allows for up to $5000 towards annual training for three to five on-mountain volunteers. This would cover basic training, and enable the volunteers to access the equipment, transport it to the scene of the fire and begin wetting down the surrounding area while awaiting the arrival of the responding fire department. This expense would only be incurred if volunteers were available. An annual allowance of $5000 is enough to provide and maintain training of three to five volunteers to Firefighter Level 1 standards.

I already pay significant taxes to the regional district. Why am I not getting fire service already?

As with all regional district electoral areas, residents only pay for the services that they receive. Each service is budgeted for separately, and the costs for each service are recovered through taxation of only those who receive the service. 

Area C residents currently pay towards many region-wide services including recreation facilities, airport service, building inspection, bylaw enforcement, 911, search and rescue, economic development and community planning (for example, the 2013 Mount Washington Integrated Community Resort Plan). Currently, there is no fire service for Mount Washington. If a service were to be established, the community receiving the service would need to pay for it. The estimated cost of the proposed community-wide fire service is $1.35/$1000 of assessed value (land and improvements).

What happened with the fire at Mt. Washington?

Fire destroyed three chalets at the Mount Washington ski resort on February 19, 2015 and the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) is relieved that there was no loss of life or injury sustained by the fire.

Why did no fire department respond?

Currently there is no fire protection service for the resort community. The CVRD will continue to work with residential strata councils and other corporate entities to develop a fire protection service that will address the unique needs of the Mt. Washington community.

Why is there no fire protection at Mt. Washington?

In accordance with the Local Government Act, a regional district fire service must receive electoral (voter) assent. In 2003, a petition was conducted to determine public support for a fire protection service. The petition was not successful. Should the residents of the Mount Washington community determine that they would like the regional district to establish a fire service, it would again require electoral assent.

Right now, will dialing 911 ensure a fire truck is sent to the mountain?

Fire truck won’t be able to respond as there is no fire service on Mt. Washington. However, the public is still requested to call 911 as there are different resources available for various circumstances. For example, if an ambulance is required or another form of rescue is needed, 911 would initiate a response of those other resources.

What about other resources if a fire in the village threatens the surrounding forest?

That would be the jurisdiction of the provincial Wildfire Protection Branch and 911 could initiate that response.

Who would fund a new fire service at Mt. Washington?

Whether fire protection would be undertaken privately or by the Comox Valley Regional District, it would have to be funded by the residents and property owners of the Mt. Washington resort community through taxation and/or strata fees.

How can structures be built with the lack of fire protection in a community setting such as this?

The development of any community is an evolution and as communities grow, more amenities are required. Measures for fire prevention have been suggested to the community.

Why are there fire hydrants throughout the village, but no fire hoses or equipment?

Community water supply and fire hydrants were included in the original community planning process.

What are the next steps?

Representatives of Mount Washington Alpine Resort and the CVRD met on March 6, 2015 to discuss the recent fires on Mount Washington. Key to this discussion was the recognition that a solution to providing fire protection service on Mount Washington will need to include the input of the various stakeholders including residential property owners, strata councils, the alpine resort, CVRD staff and elected officials. 

CVRD is working with a consultant to inform a larger discussion with all of the various stakeholders. Stakeholder/community meetings will be scheduled to explore options.

What is the cost impact to residents?

The proposed service is anticipated to cost $1.02 per $1,000 of assessed value (land and improvements) based on a ten-year debt repayment schedule. Because these are estimated costs, to allow some room for cost refinements, a maximum requisition amount to be set by bylaw is proposed at $1.15/$1000 of assessed value. Using a residential unit assessed at $200,000 as an example, the estimated cost would be $204 per year, but the maximum limit is proposed to be set at $230.