New Rules in Fire Safety Act Raise Concerns
Prince George, B.C.- There are some changes coming to the Fire Safety Act in B.C. and those changes have put the Regional District of Fraser Fort George in a quandary.The two issues are, fire inspections, and fire investigations “Those are two things Regional Districts have never done before” says Regional District of Fraser Fort George Administrator Jim Martin. “In the rural areas, those matters have always been done by the Office of the Fire Commissioner”.
The Act has received final reading, but won’t take effect until a regulation is produced later this fall, so Martin says the Regional District is sending a letter to the Office of the Fire Commissioner asking for further consideration of
the impacts the changes will have on local governments. “We’re not the only Regional District that has this concern, many others do” says Martin. ” We were advised that if we weren’t already doing these kinds of things then they would be more permissive and it would be business as usual as we have done in the past. But they way we read the ( new) Act, there are things in there telling us we have to do things, so we need to have further conversations with the Office of the Fire Commissioner about exactly our differences of opinion in interpreting the legislation because at the end of the day, it’s really about us having a responsibility to follow any legislation that’s put in place.”
Right now, communities outside of the City of Prince George, are serviced by volunteer fire departments . Martin says it’s difficult to pin point how much hiring a fire investigator would cost the Regional District “If we have to appoint a fire investigator that would investigate any kind of fire in a rural area, whether it’s a residential fire or industrial fire in a rural area, there are certain training requirements and competency and skill set and you need to pay for that competency and skill set, and how do you balance that off with the frequency of work and we have no idea what that frequency is either.”
When Regional Districts create services in the rural areas, they have to have the ratepayers approval to pay the extra fees for that service, as was the recent case of the new library building in McBride, “This Act may put us in contravention of our ability to implement that process and establish a Local Service for it” says Martin.
Martin says the regional District’s Board of Directors is also concerned that the changes are another case of downloading “This is something currently done by the Office of the Fire Commissioner , they are putting it on to Regional Districts now. The other concern the Board has, is this actually starts to dilute fire inspections and fire investigations, where you have a number of Regional Districts trying to figure out how to deliver this service which was once delivered by the Office of the Fire Commissioner who had a better handle on being able to train and be current with the codes and those sorts of things.”