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LETTER: Interlakes fire department fighting for survival

A letter from members of the Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department
Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department in 2020. (Photo submitted).

To the editor,

The current standard for volunteer fire departments is the NFPA 1001 (2019 current edition) Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications. This standard was originally issued in 2013. The Office of the Fire Commissioner applied these standards to all volunteer fire departments, including the Interlakes Volunteer Fire Department and allowed for in-house training, which all volunteer fire departments have done since the standard was issued.

We need to make a point here. As members we accept that we have to do additional training - that is NOT the issue even though the CRD continues to bring that up to justify their decisions.

Around 2020, for reasons unknown, the CRD decided all the previous training and experience in the volunteer fire departments - of which some members have over 30 years - counts for nothing. All members will be required to redo all the training starting from scratch. And if that wasn’t enough, the CRD decided to require all members to be tested for these standards through the College of the Rockies (COTR) rather than through in-house training.

Two years after these decisions were made, the IVFD volunteer membership has gone from about 35 volunteer members to maybe 13 active members. The only reason we still have 13 members is that rather than quit and leave the community without a fire department, we would rather believe that we could effect change. The other volunteers are still out there, they haven’t left, they just choose to not put up with the way they are being treated.

That being said, we at Hall 1 and Hall 3 are close to throwing in the towel.

All our efforts to effect change have gone nowhere. If we decide to step back, all members of Hall 1 and Hall 3 will be gone, and there will not be enough members remaining to drive the trucks, let alone fight a fire. This will put the community at risk, and it will be the CRD’s doing.

What is the problem:

There are two major issues, but the biggest one is the CRD’s decision to use the COTR as the testing protocol. We the members have proven that the CRD, through the COTR, is holding all volunteer members to a “Higher Standard than is required by the NFPA 1001 Professional Standard.” This has caused a reduction in membership by about 75 per cent to date. If the CRD insists on continuing with this testing protocol, it will result in all Hall 1 and Hall 3 members becoming inactive, leading to the collapse of the IVFD.

This must be addressed before it is too late. We can’t imagine what the CRD’s liability will be then if that was what they were originally worried about in the first place.

The solutions are not that difficult.

The CRD must reverse its decision to use the COTR as the testing protocol. Go back to OFC-approved in-house training or find another third-party agency that has the attitude of “helping us pass” as opposed to “watching us fail.”We the members will need to research the program before it can be accepted. Better yet, let us decide what to use.

Go back to allowing “job-specific” volunteer members. Previously, we had a lot of members who could not do certain tasks for whatever reason, but we just got them to do the things they could do. The CRD, through the COTR and our upper management, now exclude these volunteers because of their pass-or-fail approach.

Go back to treating us like volunteers instead of employees. Let the members have the say in how they receive their training, who leads them, etc.

We are at the crisis stage and have been trying for the past year to get someone to listen. This is it. If our efforts fall on deaf ears again, all members from Hall 1 and Hall 3 will step back, and the IVFD will no longer be able to function.

Thank you for listening, we need your help.

Signed by all the members of Hall 1 and Hall 3

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