No local fire department? You still have options, rural homeowners told

Duane Antle says government has outlined several, affordable models for getting fire services
By Geoff Bartlett, CBC News Posted: Feb 22, 2017 7:07 AM NT Last Updated: Feb 22, 2017 7:07 AM NT


The head of Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services says co-operation is key to providing fire protection in rural areas, even where residents assume there are no options.

Earlier this month, a house in the western Newfoundland community of Piccadilly burned to the ground, with no fire crews responding because it was not in their jurisdiction.

“When you hear those stories it does tug at the heartstrings, and you wish there was something you could do,” Duane Antle told the Corner Brook Morning Show Tuesday.

Antle, who is president of the Association of Fire Services, said it’s troubling to hear of instances like that, especially because they could be avoided with proper community planning.

“Even though we don’t want to think that it exists in our province today, there are communities that do not have arrangements for fire protection.”

Regional approach

Antle said there are a number of ways that small communities can go about getting fire protection, even if they don’t have the resources to have their own dedicated fire department.

He points to the Northern Peninsula, where the Straits Fire Department serves more than a dozen communities.

“Because they’ve pooled their resources, they’ve got a great fire service that’s very well trained, very well-equipped and very capable of responding, because they’ve come together as group and made it work,” he said.

Other options

In the case of the Piccadilly fire, he said the homeowner may have been able to buy fire protection from the nearby community of Lourdes.

Antle said that’s just one of a several options that communities and rural homeowners can do to ensure they have essential fire services.

They include sharing services with nearby communities or pooling resources to buy equipment.

“Sometimes you would be surprised at how little that cost is when people are pooling their resources,” he said.

Provincial strategy

Antle said the onus is ultimately on each community to ensure fire protection to residents, and the provincial government has outlined different models that can work.

“To be fair to the province, quite a bit of work has been done,” he said.

“The province also spends a tremendous amount of money each year cost-sharing equipment, providing training services, putting the legislation in place that would allow for regional governance.”

With files from Corner Brook Morning Show