Wetaskiwin County approves amended fire protection bylaw

The County of Wetaskiwin is moving forward with an amended fire protection bylaw that includes changes under the areas of...

Counc. Lyle Seely

The County of Wetaskiwin is moving forward with an amended fire protection bylaw that includes changes under the areas of services and charges, fireworks, and community peace officer authority.

Mike Zajac, director of fire protection services, walked county councillors through some of the proposed amendments at their March 7 meeting.

Firstly Zajac informed council the county’s fire protection services wanted to add medical first response as an officially listed service provided.

“What we’re finding is sometimes we have a tough time collecting,” said Zajac, referring to medical first response charges. He says having it as part of the bylaw could aid that.

Also proposed was a flat rate of $300 per medical first response call.

Coun. Lyle Seely had concerns with the automatic flat rate, as a rural family left unnamed was using medical first response services a couple times a month and the costs would add up.

“They don’t have a choice,” said Seely. “Sometimes there’s extenuating circumstances.”

Council discussed how such circumstances could be treated and who would have authority to make decisions on the matter. No decision was reached and Zajac was given direction to look into the matter.

Zajac explained to council the flat rate is more manageable, rather than billing by hours or responder numbers. “It’s covering costs but still making it manageable for those individuals or families.”

The existing amendments for fire protection charges are a flat rate of $300 for false alarm calls and $400 per unit dispatched. Zajac says this a 33 per cent increase but also the first time the dispatch costs have been touched since 2002.

The county was in the process of amending its fire protection bylaw last year and council approved a number of amendments at a public works meeting in February of this year; a fireworks permit will be issued by a retail location as outlined in the fees and charges by-law, all retail locations will be inspected on an annual basis by county staff at no cost to the retailer and be issued a permit providing they meet the Fire Code requirements and members of the Fire Protection Society/Association will not be members of a fire department.

With the changes the county can ensure it is following Fire Code standards. “And that’s what we intended to do,” said Coun. Terry Van de Kraats.

Zajac says the suggestions made in the bylaw are not excessive and moving forward he would like the process to be “as painless as possible” for both the retailer and the county.

A portion of the bylaw that was causing some public concern was an element of peace officer authority, says Zajac.

The wording of the bylaw states, “A Peace Officer is hereby authorized to enter any lands or buildings or premises other than a dwelling house to inspect for conditions that may contravene or fail to comply with the provisions of the bylaw and such peace officer may order the owner of occupant thereof to remedy any condition which is deemed to be in contravention of this bylaw.”

Zajac says there was concern that gave peace officers the ability to go on any land at any time, for any reason, which is not the case. “This is only for the enforcement of this bylaw. It doesn’t give them free reign to do whatever they want.”