Hay River’s fire chief Ross Potter came back from a territorial conference last week with a plan to propose a new bylaw that would see the fire department’s role more clearly laid out.
“Yellowknife and Inuvik have level-of-service bylaws,” he told The Hub. “We have an advanced department here, just not on paper.”
The conference in Yellowknife brought together fire chiefs from across the NWT to share best practices and learn from each other. Both small and larger communities were represented – something Potter said was more beneficial to the former than anything.
The proposed bylaw, which Potter hopes to present for council’s perusal in the near future, would clarify what specific activities the municipality expects the department to take part in – something that is lacking in the vast majority of NWT communities. Items on the list could include vehicle extrication and dangerous goods response.
“It’s the difference between wanting a defensive department or an offensive one,” Potter explained.
A defensive service, which is what many communities in the territory have, would see fire fighters containing incidents and making sure they don’t spread, but not attempting to save the burning structure itself.
“That would mean a town full of basements,” said Potter. “This would just lay out the level of service we provide.”
Also at the conference the territorial government’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs announced that funding for ground ambulance and highway rescue for communities tasked with providing those services would rise from $30,000 a year to $50,000 – something Potter said will help his department accomplish more.
Also, a manual was presented to all the chiefs dealing with recruitment and retention of volunteers, something that continues to be an issue for all departments.
“Typically, you get people coming on and after five years they just disappear,” said Potter. “We’re lucky, we have a bunch of guys that have been here 20 years, but we still need to keep recruiting to fill vacant spots.”
Mayor Andrew Cassidy said the conference was an opportunity to bring best practices and new knowledge back to Hay River.
“The town is supportive of training for all our staff,” he said. “It’s good to make sure we’re doing things the best way we can be.”