West Creston residents making final push for fire protection

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  • Dec. 18, 2013 6:00 a.m.

A West Creston Fire Protection Society truck in the 2012 Creston Valley Blossom Festival parade.

With only two weeks left to get property owner approval for fire service protection in West Creston and on the Creston flats, volunteers continue their push to get enough signatures on a Regional District of Central Kootenay petition.

“This is something we have been working toward for a long time,” said Jim McLeod, president of the West Creston Fire Protection Society (WCFPS). “We have a solution to provide certified fire protection to residents and businesses at a reasonable cost — we just need their signatures to move ahead.”

The proposal would see fire departments from the Town of Creston, Wynndel-Lakeview and Canyon-Lister respond to fight fires in the West-Creston/Creston flats area. According to the RDCK petition, residential and farm owners would pay a maximum rate of $1.24 per $1,000.

McLeod said that the society is not a certified fire department.

“We are not equipped to fight structure fires,” he said.

He added that the society would likely be disbanded if the petition does not succeed.

“The WCFPS is only able to operate from March 1 to Oct. 31,” said society volunteer Cathy Robinson. “If a resident has an insurance policy that says the property is within a protected or semi-protected area, or within eight kilometres of a fire hall, that policy is not valid.”

The lack of fire protection for Robinson and her neighbours hit home with recent news out of Peachland, a rural community near Kelowna, last week. Within a one-week period, two houses burned to the ground while neighbours could only stand and watch because the area does not have fire protection.

“Some argue that firefighters would arrive too late to save their home in the event of fire,” she said. “But what about their neighbours? What happens if the fire spreads to adjacent properties, or even to forested areas? Don’t you want fire protection in the event your neighbour’s home catches fire and firefighters might be able to save your home?

“As well, we are aware of people who have chosen not to purchase property in the area because we don’t have certified fire protection. It definitely can be a deal breaker.”

Residents near wooded areas face another problem. If carelessness or neglect result in fire that spreads from a private property to Crown land, the landowner can be liable for firefighting costs and criminal charges can be laid.

McLeod said that a common assumption that fires are rare in West Creston is not true.

“The WCFPS was formed after a house burned down,” he said. “Since its formation, members of the society have responded to 33 fires. What is going to happen if there is no response from WCFPS or fire departments in the area?”

The service contract would provide a fully certified fire truck, rental of a temporary fire hall in West Creston, trained volunteers from throughout the Creston Valley and provisions for a continuous water supply.

All property owners in the designated area were mailed petitions and information from the RDCK. The deadline to return signed petitions is Dec. 31.

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