The Red Cross is providing the Loon Lake Volunteer Fire Department with $86,785 to replace equipment destroyed by the Elephant Hill wildfire in 2017.
The money will be used to replace items such as personal protective gear, fire hoses, and other specialized equipment, including a breathing apparatus air fill station, says Jason Tomlin, Manager of Fire Protection Services for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD). The TNRD assumed responsibility for fire protection services in the Loon Lake area in January 2019, after residents voted 79 per cent in favour of becoming a TNRD fire department in June 2018.
“There’s some big ticket stuff in there,” says Tomlin, noting that firefighting equipment is more expensive than similar items at a hardware store. “People say ‘Why can’t you buy a ladder from Home Depot?’ But the equipment needs to meet firefighting standards.”
The June 2018 referendum passed two bylaws that create a maximum annual tax requisition for operating costs of $150,000 or $1.546/$1,000 of net taxable value to land and improvements, whichever is greater, and to borrow an amount not to exceed $653,000 for the purpose of constructing two fire halls for the Loon Lake fire protection service area. There was previously only one fire hall in the area, which was destroyed in the 2017 wildfire.
Tomlin says that with no fire hall at Loon Lake, deciding where to keep the equipment will be a balancing act. “We intend for the firefighters to have the equipment so they can operate. Once the new fire halls are built, we can outfit them.”
The TNRD is now waiting for the Province to come back regarding two pieces of Crown land that have been identified as suitable locations for the new main fire hall and the satellite hall. “It’s a multi-stage process, and this is Stage Two,” explains Tomlin. “We’re waiting for the Province to adjudicate, and waiting to see the outcome.”
He adds that the decision to build two fire halls rather than just one was to expand the fire protection area. The Fire Underwriters Survey states that owners of property within eight kilometres of a fire hall can receive a reduction in their insurance premiums. “The primary fire hall will be at the mid-span of the lake, and the satellite hall will extend the range to the highway, maximizing the potential gains in reduced insurance premiums.”
In January, Fraserway RV announced that it would be allocating $275,000 to the TNRD to go towards the replacement of the fire hall in Loon Lake.
“I’m overjoyed, and impressed with people’s ability to think of others,” said TNRD Area “E” director Sally Watson, whose area includes Loon Lake, at the time. “What a gift! I’m so excited.”
Tomlin says that the TNRD is looking for other sources of funding for the Loon Lake fire halls, so that they do not necessarily have to go to taxation. However, he notes that the Red Cross announcement is a major one for the Loon Lake firefighters.
“It’s a big gust of wind in their sails.”
With files from Barbara Roden/Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal