Chiefs back in control of regional departments

Regional politicians voted to decentralize bylaws for the seven volunteer departments in region

At least one director is “extremely” frustrated after Regional District-Okanagan Similkameen directors voted to repeal an over riding bylaw that centralized operations of the seven volunteer fire departments opting instead to go with seven separate bylaws.

“(It’s)time to get on with it,” Bob Coyne, director for Area H (Tulameen) said following the meeting. “Everything is in place except the bylaw to make it happen.”

The RDOS oversees fire services in Keremeos, Tulameen, Kaleden, OK Falls, Naramata, Anarchist Mountain and Willowbrook.

Coyne was referring to the RDOS board’s decision to hire several staff in the protective services part of the organization in the last year to alleviate pressures on volunteer departments since the province introduced a regulatory playbook. Staff support focusses heavily on administration duties to ensure all training is up-to-date and documented.

The RDOS over riding bylaw was brought in 2011 and took the responsibility of hiring and firing chiefs away from regional directors and centralized some reporting requirements and codes of conduct.

Andrew Jakubeit, Mayor for Penticton and director for the RDOS, also voted against repealing the bylaw that governed all seven departments.

Jakubeit said career fire departments are structured differently than volunteer in some ways, offering administration support to the firefighters.

“I this was trying to help bring some structure to the fire departments with their training and some of the ministry stuff to make sure it is all documented. If there was an issue down the road we can make sure that everything is documented,” he said. “I just thought it was a bit more of the fire departments getting hung up on some of the certain wordings and being resistant to change.”

Jakubeit said as a board he didn’t think directors were experts on firefighting operations and is in favour of having staff at the RDOS that do have that knowledge.

“The board isn’t really experts on the subject matters in this field and that’s where we would rely on staff and we have staff that are subject matter experts in this field,” he said.

Michael Brydon, Area F (West Bench) noted that the change meant fire chiefs were back in control. He along with Coyne, Jakubeit, Helena Konanz and Andre Martin, both from Penticton, were against repealing the bylaw.

“We’re going to be back where we were in 2011, with a tribunal of 18 deciding whether to fire a fire chief. If we get a bad fire chief or a bad situation with referrals we’re going to be back here, but not for now,” he said during discussion.

Residents won’t see any change in service because of the repeal of the bylaw.

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