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Trying to reach better terms

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Feb 18/05) - The Fort Simpson volunteer fire department is seeking to retain revenues it generates through the village's ambulance service to buy emergency equipment.

Members of the department met with village council on Monday afternoon.

Pat Rowe, Fort Simpson's fire chief, says the fire department needs a new pumper truck and fire truck, hydraulic equipment and a fire hall extension. - NNSL file photo

"If anything, I hope we come out with a better working rapport with council," fire chief Pat Rowe said after the meeting, which was closed to the public. "We're not asking to make all the decisions as a fire department, we just want to be heard a little bit."

Mayor Raymond Michaud said council will consider amending its bylaws so that revenue raised through ambulance calls will go into an "umbrella fund" under protective services. That would allow the fire department to purchase a broader range of equipment, the mayor said. There is also a question of whether the money that goes into the emergency equipment reserve fund should be gross or what remains after expenses. The village's estimate for revenue generated by the ambulance service was $48,650 for 2004.

The issue will be on the agenda at the Feb. 21 council meeting.

Rowe has been requesting a fire hall extension for years. In November, he also told council that a new fire truck and pumper truck are needed. Although council has hesitated, Michaud said concerns over insurance for the community's subdivisions will force the municipality to take a "close look" at replacing the fire truck.

Other recommendations from Monday's meeting were to have a fire department representative give a report at village council meetings every few months and to hold quarterly joint budget meetings with the fire department.

"It's got to improve our line of communication, that was our biggest problem," Michaud said.

Another sore point between village council and the department came last year when village council approved of a modified shipping container or "sea can" for a regional live burn training centre.

The volunteer fire department had drafted its own five-page proposal for a regional training centre.

Tyrone Larkin, assistant fire marshal for the Deh Cho, said the "sea can" meets national safety code standards, whereas there were safety code issues with the fire department's proposal.

Rowe argued that the fire departments in the smaller Deh Cho communities aren't equipped to enter a burning building, which is what would be simulated in the sea can.

Larkin admitted that three of the six communities cannot yet undertake "offensive" firefighting, but "that doesn't mean they never will be. We just have to look down the road a little bit."

Municipal and Community Affairs covered the $58,000 cost for the live burn training centre initiative. Michaud said, at the time, he felt the village should accept the offer before it was rescinded.

"It was something that was 'Take it or leave it.' I felt we should take it," Michaud said.

"It's unfortunate that we couldn't discuss the funding to utilize it for something that we felt would be more beneficial. Maybe we should have said, 'No.' Hindsight doesn't help here."