Nanaimo's fire chief says a resolution endorsed by local government leaders to have ICBC reimburse fire departments for calls to incidents on highways would be a cost-saver for local governments.
But chief Ron Lambert said he would have to see more details of such a policy before judging what sort of impact it could have on his department, which is in negotiations with the local firefighters union on a new fire plan and contract.
On Wednesday, delegates at the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference in Vancouver endorsed a resolution calling on the provincial government to develop a program with ICBC to cover fire departments' costs when responding to incidents on highways, "separate from and in addition to the provincial emergency program." Currently, fire departments are not compensated by ICBC or the province for equipment and manpower dispatched to highway incidents outside municipal boundaries.
"It would certainly be revenuegenerating for the city, rather than have the taxpayer take the impact of direct response," Lambert said.
The fire department is sometimes paid for work done typically outside its jurisdiction. For example, he said, the fire department can be compensated for responding to wildfires under guidelines established by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. The department can also be paid for lending a hand to crews in other jurisdictions, but only when a response is pre-authorized by Emergency Management B.C., he said.
That is in stark contrast to the proposal endorsed at the UBCM, which would automatically cover fire department costs for highway response.
Lambert said it is "common" for Nanaimo Fire Rescue is called to highway incidents, "but it's fairly infrequent," he added. He estimated the department will typically be called out to such jobs two to three times a year. Financial coverage for the incidents would be minimal, he said.
"It's a few hundred dollars, per call," Greves said.
Ladysmith fire chief Ray Delcourt agreed. He said the policy would be "a no-brainer," adding that calls for highway service can put extra costs on his department, which the town must absorb. But Nanaimo Coun. Bill McKay said the money to pay for the service all comes from a common source.
"ICBC gets the money from the taxpayers," he said. "It's one of those things where you're taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another."
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