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Wednesday, 10 October 2012 15:51

City will make a call on Swift Current fire and emergency protocol

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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A proposed new bylaw to regulate the City of Swift Current’s fire and emergency services might result in changes to the way firefighters respond to incidents.


Councillors voted in favour of a recommendation by Fire Chief Denis Pilon at the regular council meeting Oct. 1. The City will therefore be giving a notice of motion for a bylaw to set the fire department’s levels of service and to change to the fire codes for improved enforcement.
According to Pilon a number of concerns have been identified during a review of the existing Fire Prevention bylaw over the past year.
“Basically, it didn’t really state what services we could provide,” he explained. “It just said rescue of any sort. So we ended up going to some incidents that we were not trained for, that we should probably never been at, and put the City in a high-liability situation.”
He referred to two major incidents during the past two years, including the rescue of a man from his vehicle in floodwaters. Three Swift Current firefighters received bravery commendations for their actions on April 27, 2011 to extricate the man from his vehicle that was stuck in a flooded Swift Current Creek.
Pilon said the fire department was completely unprepared to deal with that kind of rescue, including not having an appropriate boat. Since then, the City has acquired a rescue boat and firefighters will receive river rescue training.
“We probably never should have been in the water,” he noted. “We should have been doing something different to try and get him out of there, but we should never have been in the water.”
The current bylaw allows firefighters to respond to incidents even if they have not been trained to deal with it. Under the proposed new bylaw, the fire department might have to change their approach to certain situations.
“Everybody thinks a firefighter should just go and safe anybody from anything, but there’s a lot of money and time that’s spent in training to respond to incidents,” he said. “So a lot of it is about identifying what our needs are and what we can provide.”
The service clause in the proposed bylaw will be expanded to be clear about the services the fire department is authorized to provide. Other changes will ensure the bylaw is in accordance with the National Fire Code of Canada.
The ban on the sale and use of fireworks in the City will remain in place, but sparklers up to 14 inches and solid model rockets will be exempted to accommodate hobbyists. The areas where these rockets can be used will be regulated, for example on private property and the Windscape site.
The section on offences and penalties will be changed to reflect the seriousness of an offence. The previous fine of $300 for minor offences such as illegal fire pits was considered to be too high and officers were reluctant to use it. The fine amount will be reduced to $50 under the new bylaw.
“We can give them a decent fine and we can enforce the regulations,” Pilon said. “Typically, we’re not out to fine people. It’s the last tool in our toolbox.
Our role is to educate, our role is to prevent fires and we work very hard at that.”
For offences such as failing to maintain fire protection equipment there will be first-, second- and third-offence fines. At the same time, maximum fines will be increased to $10,000 for individuals and $25,000 for corporations.
Loan for subdivision development
The City of Swift Current is to increase its quick loan amount under the Saskatchewan Infrastructure Growth Initiative (SIGI) with an additional $4,029,251. The money will be used to fund the development of municipal infrastructure in the Saskatchewan Valley subdivision.
The SIGI program provides municipalities with interest rate subsidies on loans to fund municipal infrastructure for lot development. Last year, the City received a SIGI subsidy grant on an amount of $1,153,973 for the Highland residential subdivision.
As a result, the City has already recovered approximately $587,000 of interest costs through this program. According to Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Financial Officer Tim Marcus the City has also used the SIGI interest subsidy program during the development of the commercial lands behind the casino.
“Because you have to borrow that money over a period of time before you recoup it from land sales, the province has provided loans interest free for those purposes to encourage development,” he said.
The Saskatchewan Valley subdivision development includes concrete and asphalt work, installation of deep and shallow utilities, site grading and a linear parkway to link the area with the Chinook Parkway. It also involves the construction of a major collector road to access a new school site, future residential area and proposed recreation facilities.
“The Highland subdivision was developed that way and all the money has been recouped through the sales of the individual lots,” Marcus said. “When the land sells afterwards, we sell for the price of the bare land plus the cost of the infrastructure that went in. It’s averaged over all of the property in that subdivision.”

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