New Fire Bylaw Discussed

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Unless it offends someone the Moose Jaw Fire Department doesn’t mind hearing “come on ring those bells” they do however want to see a curtailment in false fire alarms. Thats just part of the emphasis of the proposed new Fire Bylaw.

Appearing before Executive Committee Fire Chief Rod Montgomery presented the new Fire Bylaw for the City.

The new bylaw was designed to update the existing bylaw to conform with presently applicable acts and regulations whereas the previous Bylaw dealt with acts and regulations now outdated.

Chief Montgomery stated the new Bylaw could not be of a lower standard than the legislation but the City could enhance it for safety reasons. 

“If we want to have a little better fire protection we can put that in our Bylaw but we can’t lessen it with the Provincial Government (approving),” he said. 

A big issue for the Fire Department in the Bylaw was to start charging for responding to false alarms.

“The first two are free and then charge for service,” he said, adding “we don’t want to generate revenue from this we want to generate compliance.”

Another area where the Fire Department wants to enhance fire coverage is reducing the Fire Code allowable storage area for hay to half of the allowable area. 

Chief Montgomery said it was necessary because hay stack fires had been hard to control on the past.

Another area the Fire Department wants in the new Bylaw is a schedule of fees for such things as hydrant flow testing. Presently the Department charges for these services but would like a formal fee schedule.

A formal fee schedule would also allow the potential of billing insurance companies for fire fighting.

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In the area of Rural Municipalities having to pay a $30,000 retainer fee to provide fire services the Department would also like to institute a $15,000 initial fee for those RMs who chose not to pay a retainer.

“You may have only one or two costs, if you don’t want to pay a $30,000 if we go out there once it is going to be $15,000 plus.”

Asked by Councillor Brian Swanson how many properties could have been potentially fined Chief Montgomery said “18 to date that would be that had 11, another six, another five, another six and another five.”

“Multiple properties that continue to have false alarms the quick math about 50 alarms.”

The Bylaw would have flexibility allowing a fine to be assessed given the circumstances.

“There would be some room in the Bylaw that is the Chief's discretion whether we wave a Bylaw or not...if they haven’t fixed the problem in their system I think you might say this warrants a fine.”

Councillor Chris Warren asked about opportunities to interact with major stakeholders. He called for a forum to “listen to their concerns and some of the changes from the old Bylaw to the new Bylaw.”

Councillot Warren proposed an amendment to the motion to not bring forth the Bylaw until there was some sort of consultation.  

“We will actively inform them and let them know...give them a heads up. When a fire alarm company comes through here they always ask do you have a policy that charges? And we have already responded no we don’t,” Chief Montgomery replied. 

“At the end of the day why would they want to be compliant? If there was no fine in place I don’t think that makes sense.”

“What we do right now is we go and ask did you fix this...but you might not get any results,” the Chief stated, adding “It’s like a speeding ticket when the speed goes up and down you just give them the ticket.”

Councillor Warren however still desired stakeholder engagement.

“(We need to) identify key stakeholders and be able to provide some information to provide support.”

City Manager Jim Puffalt said “I there is opportunity for “

“False alarm fees have been implemented in other jurisdictions and it’s been helpful in curtailing false alarms,” Puffalt said.

“There would be a lot of stakeholders on our list this year and might not be on our list next year,” Chief Montgomery said.

Councillor Heather Eby said “in my opinion consultation and engagement comes under call number one and number two…I’m not sure a formal consultation is important at this point.”

“I think their consultation happens in the driveway or the door on false alarm number one,” Councillor Eby said.

Councillor Luhning also opposed consultation saying the debate was “muddying the water” when the overall problem of false alarms was looked at from previous reports. 

“I don’t believe consultation at this point is proper,” Councillor Luhning stated.

Mayor Frasier Tolmie said he opposed the need for more formal consultation and engagement but said an information notice could be included in property tax notices.

“This is a problem and an issue the City has been dealing with for a long time,” Mayor Tolmie stated, adding those who are not complying need to start thinking about resources which might be needed elsewhere in a real emergency.

Councillor Brian Swanson said it should be “standard procedure for allowing for public input.”

“I know my support will be the kiss of death to Councillor Warren’s amendment.”

Despite Councillor Swanson's support Councillor Crystal Froese said she supported stakeholder consultation.

“Not to give Councillor Swanson a heart attack here but I actually agree with him,” Councillor Froese stated.

In a 4-3 vote Councillor Warren's amendment to allow stakeholder consultation before introducing the Bylaw for three readings passed with Councillors Eby and Luhning and Mayor Tolmie voting against it. 



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