Keeping costs down under the noble badge of volunteerism

The regional
district needs to view its
firefighters as employees, but the firefighters need to see themselves as


A recent report from regional district staff to the board sparked some interesting discussion between board members at the December 5 board meeting.

The report concerned a proposal to standardize fire officer stipends and rates of remuneration. Regional district staff felt that the move was necessary to properly compensate community members who serve in their fire departments, and would also serve to bring a form of parity to the compensations paid throughout the region’s seven departments.

If I read the sentiments of the directors correctly, it appeared as though most were in favour of compensation, but the amount was still open to debate. Presently, all but two departments have some rate of compensation in place.

To a resident in the regional district who is not a firefighter, the issue probably seems simplistic, if not a no-brainer.

Who wouldn’t be in favour of the compensations offered in the report, especially when most department members would  benefit financially by the pay proposal?

I serve on one of the region’s departments, and I find myself at odds with the report. It has everything to do with perspective, I guess, but I don’t believe I’m alone in how I see the role of a member of a regional fire department.

When I decided to join, I wasn’t even aware there was compensation. I was okay with the discovery that a small amount was paid out once annually for the service, but it was never a part of the reason why I decided to become a member, or remain one.

My motivation was not because I had any great interest in being a firefighter,  but because at the time it seemed like the best way I could serve the community.

In short, the decision was made out of a desire to do community service – volunteer work – at the same time helping myself and other residents reduce our tax bill for an otherwise prohibitively expensive, seldom used service.

From my point of view, it has always been volunteerism that has been my biggest motivation for helping to provide the service. I have never accepted, and it is unlikely I ever will, the regional district’s viewpoint that firefighters are paid employees of the regional district. If I were to accept that, I don’t think I’d be motivated to continue in the service, because a low paying, second job was not what I had in mind when I agreed to do this.

I understand the regional district staff’s need to insist on their own view of reality in the matter of employee versus volunteer. I understand their need to lead on regional fire department initiatives.

I also believe they have some understanding of the motivations people such as myself might have for joining a regional department, and I think they have tried to demonstrate some sensitivity to the issue.

In this particular case, however, I believe this initiative should have been encouraged by the regional district to take place at the community level, where each department could decide for themselves what their costs should be.

I greatly fear the proposal, if allowed to proceed as it now stands, will result in further erosion of the volunteer motive, and create an unnecessary – and in many cases, undesired – tax burden for many of the region’s households.


Just Posted

Okanagan’s smoke filled skies toxic to pets

Pet owners should take extra precautions with pets until smoke dissipates

Air support grounded as fires fill the skies with smoke

Update Aug. 19 1:25 p.m. A majority of air support is still… Continue reading

Crews continue extinguish Snowy Mountain Wildfire

The 13,359 hectare wildfire is classified as held

Smoke cancels Super League Penticton, organizers give pros a gift

Super League Penticton organizers decide to send all pro competitors to championship

Smoky skies means stay inside, according to Interior Health

The air quality in the Okanagan is considered a high risk

Flights from Kelowna International Airport affected by wildfire smoke

Passengers are being asked to check their flight’s status before arriving

Work continues on Monashee Complex wildfires

Crews will be assisted by helicopters if flying conditions improve

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

Gottfriedsen Mountain wildfire continues to be held

Firefighters are working alongside the military to extinguish the wildfire near West Kelowna

B.C. swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights can be misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Most Read