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‘They’re here to fight fires’: Sparwood mayor defends limits on firefighter duties

Mayor Wilks was responding to expectations firefighters step up to provide first responder care
Sparwood Fire Department truck (file photo)

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks has defended district practice in not tasking the local fire department with providing first responder care.

In comments made during the August 2 council meeting, Wilks took issue with information being shared on community Facebook pages about difficulties securing emergency medical care in the district, and expectations that the fire department step up to fill gaps in the BC Emergency Health Services system.

Wilks said the issue came down to manpower – both with ambulance services which were taken up with transfer duties and limits on how much they could work, and with the fire department which had other important duties.

“We have 31 active firefighters, of which 29 are volunteers paid on call. Of that 29, we can make the assumption that 15 of them are always working because most of them are at Teck.

“Of those available, they’re probably on their four days off, so you might have half of them here.

“If we had two first responder calls, that takes four of our firefighters, and that would leave four to fight a fire,” he said.

“They’re here to fight fires, they’re here to protect Sparwood.”

The district’s firefighters already went to every incident along the highways through town and provided assistance lifting patients at those calls when requested, he added.

“What (Sparwood Fire Department) don’t do is supplement BC Ambulance, because they (BC Ambulance) need to go to the provincial government and say ‘up your game’ because they’re not upping their game, they’re downloading.”

The provincial government recently dismissed a letter from the district imploring them to increase ambulance coverage in the area, and according to Wilks the district throwing its fire department into the mix to try to solve the problem would drastically increase the tax burden annually ($150,000 was his estimate assuming there are 150 first responder calls) and give the province a pass for under investing in ambulance care.

“I understand the frustration … but your fight is not with the District of Sparwood. Your fight is with the government of British Columbia and the Minister of Public Safety David Eby and Adrian Dix the Minister of Health.”

Wilks said the district would continue to advocate for increased ambulance coverage, and encouraged residents to write to the local MLA, and ministers responsible for the various departments that covered public safety and health care.

READ MORE: Sparwood mayor says he and council should be paid ‘what we’re worth’
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