The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) is maintaining its usual high standard of fire protection services throughout the region following the implementation of a COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Policy that includes all elected officials, employees, paid on-call firefighters and volunteers.
As a result, the CSRD has seen some of its firefighters opt for a leave of absence rather than provide proof of vaccination.
“We respect the firefighters’ right to make their own decisions about vaccination,” says Derek Sutherland, Team Leader, Protective Services. “But as an organization, we need to be committed to the safety of our teams and the public. This policy was put in place by the Board because vaccines are among the best methods of protecting the health and safety of you, and those around you, from the risks of COVID-19.”
Despite the loss of some members, Sutherland assures the public that high-quality fire services will be maintained in all the CSRD’s 13 fire departments. Most of the departments have sufficient fully vaccinated members to maintain accreditations and current fire response times should not be affected.
“This has been difficult. Firefighters become like a family and we did not want to lose anyone. Should circumstances change, we hope to be welcoming them back,” says Sutherland.
One CSRD Fire Department in Swansea Point had its membership drop below the Fire Underwriters Survey’s recommended 15 members, but this does not mean residents would suddenly lose their fire insurance or see premiums rise dramatically.
“The Fire Underwriters Survey wants to see that we have a plan for how to address the situation and they are happy to work with us,” says Sutherland. “They are very aware from departments around the country that there can be an ebb and flow with recruitment.”
In the few cases where membership has dipped, Sutherland says fire service coverage will be maintained through mutual aid agreements with other fire halls. In the situation where a Fire Chief or officer has resigned, Sutherland and Fire Service Coordinator Sean Coubrough will be assuming leadership roles. The departments are always looking to welcome new, fully vaccinated recruits to the program.
Photo: CSRD firefighters extinguish a blazing van during a training exercise. (CSRD photo.)