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Gearing up for new deputy fire chief

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 14th, 2013

The Castlegar Fire Department has the search for a new full-time deputy fire chief well in hand, according to Fire Chief Gerry Rempel.

Rempel said they can’t post the job until the 2013 budget is adopted (anticipated to happen at council’s regular meeting this coming Monday), but they’re already writing up the job description for a hire that will bring much-needed helping hands to what is predominantly a volunteer department.

There are currently only two paid, full-time staffers – Rempel himself and Deputy Fire Chief Duane Monsen – and the two are kept very busy despite a dedicated and exceptional group of volunteers, Rempel added.

“We do have a population increase, an increase in the number of calls we’re attending, and a considerable increase in the duties and responsibilities we’re taking on,” he said. “We’ve taken on standby services for Public works, Duane (Monsen) is Municipal Emergency Plan Coordinator, and we do regular inspections of city businesses (fire prevention inspection will be one of the duties of the new deputy).

“We’re being asked to do more and more things all the time,” he said, explaining why a new deputy has been highlighted as a priority in the 2013 budget. “We do have a capital budget, too – we’re in the process of upgrading our breathing apparatus, and we do continual upgrading of our protective clothing, and then there’s maintenance …”

The last time the budget allowed for a new full-timer was in 1997, and Rempel (who started in his role in 1991) said things have dramatically changed in the intervening five years.

“Back when I started, we had two fire halls – we’ve reduced numbers operationally and consolidated in a single, new fire hall in 1999 – it’s a lot more effective, and our response times are quicker.”

He said they’re working with a smaller volunteer corps, as they only have to staff a single hall, but those volunteers are exceptionally well-trained and have to update their training on a regular basis, which costs money.

In fact, the department just last Monday hosted a training opportunity for first responders to learn pet first aid, CPR and oxygen therapy to enure there’s no man (or mutt) left behind in the event of a Castlegar emergency (see https://castlegarsource.com/news/protecting-pooch-and-other-pets-now-part-emergency-paradigm-23683#.UUEQb1darB8 ).

Councillor and vice-chair Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff said there’s also an issue of succession, as Rempel is due to retire within the next several years.

“That’s where the ugency came in for me, as a councillor,” she said. “We don’t want any kind of a gap – we want whoever takes over to benefit from Gerry’s knowledge and experience, he’s been here for so long.”

Council is expected to adopt the new budget this coming Monday at 7 p.m. at the Community Forum across from City Hall. The public is welcome to attend.

Categories: GeneralPolitics

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