Cariboo Regional District fire chief Roger Hollander has been making rounds to meet one-on-one with all CRD fire departments.
Former chief of the 100 Mile House Fire Rescue, Hollander started working in the newly-created position on Nov. 6, 2023.
“It’s been a priority by myself to establish a positive working relationship with the fire departments,” he told the CRD board during its regular meeting Friday, Jan. 12.
“We have 14 different departments and 14 different personalities and they all have their challenges in these rural small communities.”
Hollander said he is looking forward to working with all the departments and establishing positive relationships.
“I think it will take some time over the next few years, but I also think we’ve crested a hill that is quite positive.”
He has already returned to meet with some departments for a second or third time.
“They want to continue with their training but were missing the piece of the communication that came with it. I’m really glad, really excited that I am able to fill that need.”
There have been several structure fires in the January already and Hollander said he has been supporting the fire departments from an operational standpoint.
“I was able to help from the 100 Mile House office organize some sand trucks and machinery that was needed on scene for the fire in 150 Mile House on Thursday [Jan. 11] from behind the desk.”
Chiefs require operational support on scene, he explained, adding whether he is there in person or over the phone he has felt good about being able to support the departments.
“All of the firefighters need to know they have the CRD’s support - not just in words, but in action,” he said.
Since being hired he has been updating the CRD’s operational guidelines and reviewing them with with each fire chief, as well as each department’s own guidelines.
“That is part of the fire service - to re-evaluate and to change where needed these standard operating guidelines that our fire departments are working under. That’s the framework and that is what we expect as the authority having jurisdiction for them.”
Staff are working hard behind the scenes on fire protection agreements and CRD training officer Darren Charlton is going out to the fire departments to chat about training and doing some evaluations.
CRD board chair Margo Wagoners said she was glad communication is front and foremost for Hollander because that is one of the complaints that came to the board in the past from the fire departments.
Director Mary Sjostrom said building communication and trust is something the directors have talked about many times around the board.
“I am counting on your support to build that up. I hope there will be a lot of talking with not down to type thing. I think we need to learn from our mistakes and I hope we can do that,” she said.
Area L director Eric de Vries thanked Hollander for attending the Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department Christmas party.
“I have had real positive feedback with your first contact with the department. I am relieved and happy,” De Vries said.
De Vries asked Hollander to address, at a future meeting, the coordination and cooperation of fire departments with BC Wildfire Service.
“Some departments are well-equipped to do wildfire fighting, with equipment and qualifications, and I am sure you will make an inventory of well a department is equipped.”
Hollander confirmed he will discuss that when he meets with BC Wildfire.
“I can speak from experience in those situations, I have and so has 100 Mile Fire Department been able to action some of the fires with coordination with BC Wildfire before they get there,” Hollander said.