The Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department Society has decided to dissolve and pass on the responsibility of emergency service delivery in the community to the Regional District of Nanaimo.
The society, which has been contracted by the RDN to provide fire protection services in parts of Electoral Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood), held a special meeting on March 30 to announce the resignation of the board of directors.
The RDN will now be solely responsible for the fire department and the emergency services it has been mandated to provide to the region.
“The RDN will manage the fire service governance and administration of the Coombs-Hilliers Volunteer Fire Department,” said Catherine Morrison, manager of emergency services. “This means working closely with the dedicated volunteers of the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department who directly provide the crucial and important fire and emergency response services.”
Morrison indicated the RDN has had a positive and long relationship with the society and expressed gratitude for the time and effort of the board of directors in supporting fire and emergency response services to the community.
There will a 90-day transition period. Morrison said the RDN and the fire department members are working together for the smooth transfer of the operational management of the CHVFD to the RDN.
The RDN has commissioned a review of society-operated fire departments within the regional district in 2015 that led to the implementation of a series of changes related to operational coordination and support. The review also highlighted the need to look into the governance and administrative structure of the fire departments to address a myriad of issues that include administration, effectiveness, liability and appropriate governance. A second investigative review was conducted in 2018 and extended to 2019.
The review concluded fire protection services has evolved over time. It has created complexities that have been attributed to three key factors: a demand for additional services over and above fire responses, which include fire-based medical, hazardous materials and technical rescue responses; given today’s requirements for managing and operating at these emergency responses, there has been an increase in the need for improved levels of training in all aspects of service delivery; and there has been a general increase in the number of calls for all services.
The RDN also needed to make sure the services agreements it has with the fire departments within the regional district adheres to the Office of the Fire Commissioner playbook, published in 2014.
The review suggested revised agreements to be established to include language to address liability and risk management as well as require a clear reporting structure to ensure the RDN has better visibility of how the service is being provided and how financial matters are managed.
The study has given societies an opportunity to consider their positions whether to have the RDN fully operate the service or to continue society run departments but will be subject to a revised agreement for service.