Kneehill County council in Alberta approved in principle the levels of fire service its residents, and neighbours, can expect when it comes to the municipal fire department. The resolution was passed at the March 28 regular meeting of council.

Councillors heard a report from Kevin Gannon, director of community services, regarding a draft version of the fire level of service policy. 

“The purpose of this document is to outline the fire level of service provided in Kneehill County to reduce and mitigate risks for the safety of the residents and visitors as well as the protection of property within the county,” stated Gannon’s report. 

“It defines operational expectations on levels of response, which have a direct impact on equipment, training, safety standards and liability mitigation.”

Gannon explained the development of this draft policy was the fruit of other efforts involving a regional partnership and a paid consultant. Gannon explained the consultant also worked with a number of neighbouring communities that Kneehill has mutual aid agreements with or works with on a regular basis.

He also pointed out several times during his presentation that the level of service Kneehill County commits to may or may not be the same as surrounding municipalities.

For example, he pointed out a difference from other policies regarding minimum staff. “Changing the minimum staff from four to six for interior operations. With one pump operator, two interior on line, and additional two on second line for rescue intervention team, one back up… six is the recommended (Kneehill) number here,” stated Gannon’s report.

He also noted that some communities identify certain levels of service that Kneehill County doesn’t necessarily need. He noted things like structural firefighting (low rise buildings) is identified as a Town of Three Hills risk but isn’t necessarily a risk for Kneehill.

Staff also explained how Kneehill’s individual fire agreements with small urban centres are handled. 

“Agreements between Kneehill County and each municipality within our boundaries were completed in 2020/21 and expire on Dec. 31, 2024,” stated Gannon. “We have a mutual aid agreement with Drumheller from 1994 that we are currently operating on.”

He also noted that agreements with these towns and villages aren’t necessarily the same. For example, in some communities Kneehill County owns portions of certain rescue services vehicles and in others there are no rescue services vehicles.

Gannon also stated that Kneehill council was the first group to set eyes on this draft. If the draft is approved in principle, discussions will begin with other municipalities.

During discussion it was clarified Kneehill County has mutual aid agreements with surrounding counties, but not with towns.

Coun. Ken King asked about the 1994 agreement with the Town of Drumheller and whether that was being reviewed. Gannon responded there have been some changes in Drumheller and Kneehill is expecting discussions about the 1994 agreement in the future but nothing is scheduled right now.

Coun. King then asked for clarification about draft policies such as this being developed by other communities. Gannon confirmed that was accurate but pointed out that what is deemed a risk in one community may not be deemed a risk in another. Gannon also pointed out, though, that other municipalities that respond within Kneehill will provide the level of service matching Kneehill’s policy.

Coun. King asked how Kneehill will engage with other communities about these draft levels of fire service policies. Gannon answered Kneehill has been communicating regularly with other communities and an engagement session will be held to wrap up the project.

County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen noted that Kneehill County wants to have discussions about this draft policy with partners as the county understands that if Kneehill is expecting a certain level of service from those partners, the county may have to pitch in and help partners reach those levels.

Councillors unanimously approved the draft policy in principle.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 06, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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