The Cherry Creek volunteer Fire Department has agreed to enter into the automatic aid agreement between the other fire departments in the Valley.
An agreement was executed in early 2012 between the city of Port Alberni Fire Department, the Beaver Creek Fire Department and the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department, but Cherry Creek chose not to be part of the agreement at that time.
“We were working to the max of our ability,” said Cherry Creek fire chief Lucas Banton. “It was more of a situation of protecting volunteer members from being burnt out.”
Under the automatic aid agreement, neighbouring fire departments respond automatically to significant fires in each other’s districts. This allows assistance in a more timely manner.
The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District received a letter in May of this year from Banton, requesting to become a partner in the agreement.
Banton said that the Cherry Creek VFD is in a better situation now than they were five years ago to participate in an automatic aid agreement, partly because the Cherry Creek area is experiencing fewer structure fires now than they were five years ago.
“Our capacity to provide services to other areas is available,” he said.
Once reviewed and endorsed by the ACRD, the city and the Cherry Creek Waterworks District, the new agreement will allow Alberni Valley fire departments to respond automatically to emergency incidents within the boundaries of the city of Port Alberni and the fire service areas of the Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department, the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
“The AMA provides great benefit for the whole Valley, and we’re looking forward to becoming a part of it,” said Banton. “There’s a benefit to Cherry Creek, as well as the Valley as a whole.”
During an Oct. 23 meeting of city council, Port Alberni mayor Mike Ruttan wanted to know what the cost to the city would be.
City CAO, and former fire chief, Tim Pley answered that there is not an “extraordinary” cost to the city.
“In most years, automatic aid has been one to two responses outside of the city per year,” he said. “This year has been an anomaly. But I would say even then there’s not an extraordinary cost. There’s a tremendous benefit coming back to the city.”
He pointed out that the city’s fire rating improved this year, and said this was largely because of the city’s automatic aid agreements.
“I think it’s well-compensated,” he said.
Ruttan also wanted to know if Franklin River Road residents would be covered by this agreement, but Pley said that Franklin River Road Residents are part of the Cherry Creek electoral area, but not part of the Cherry Creek improvement district, which means they do not receieve fire protection.
Council also requested clarification as to whether costs for responses are balanced out at the end of the year, and fire chief Kelly Gilday provided a report during a Nov. 14 meeting of council confirming that there is no analysis done by any of the departments regarding the balancing of the cost of responses.
In his report, he added, “Both the City and the Volunteer Departments realize the benefit to each other in way of resource sharing and protection of valley infrastructure and residences.”