By J.W. Schnarr
In the event of a fire, the Municipal District of Taber will be able to count on its friends.
During their regular meeting on March 10, M.D. council passed a motion to enter into a mutual aid fire control agreement with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
“What this would enable us to do is access AESRD resources,” said Municipal Administrator Derrick Krizsan. “As well as provide mutual aid resources to AESRD in the event of a fire which our municipal resources could reasonably respond to.”
During discussion, Reeve Brian Brewin expressed some concerns with the agreement over whether the opportunity existed where local fire resources could be stretched past their limit.
“One of our concerns is that we were going to get called to a fire in B.C. or something,” he said. “Do we have the option not to go?”
“Considering our volunteer resources, our response would be minimal,” replied Krizsan.
“We could be beneficial in a prairie fire situation,” said Brewin. “I’m not so sure we’d be beneficial in a forest fire.”
One of the conditions of entering into the agreement is that municipalities must develop a “Fire Control Plan” which would be updated on a yearly basis. The plan would include administrative procedures; preventative and detection information; presuppression information; wildfire operators; training and certification opportunities; and effective dates and maps, contacts, and other information.
Division 4 Coun. Ben Elfring said he was concerned about the use of the agreement, and the costs which could be related to calling AESRD.
“If we’re not the ones to make the call to call these people, there is going to be a cost,” he said. “I have concerns there. If the fire chief makes the call, we have nothing to say about it. Like what happened last fall.”
Krizsan explained there have been protocols established for activating the AESRD.
“Our own departments have adopted those policies as part of their standard operating procedures,” he said. “With our contracted services with (Taber), we’ve made them aware of that protocol.”
Krizsan then explained the importance of the agreement.
“If you look at an M.D. map, you’ll see the amount of occupied public land that’s out there,” he said. “Under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, municipal districts are responsible for controlling fires on occupied public land. ASRD has the responsibility of controlling fires on unoccupied public land.”
“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” he added. “About one-quarter of the M.D. is public land. This is an important relationship.”