County councillors vote unanimously to not renew fire contract with city

By Ashley Wiebe
April 19, 2017 - 5:12pm Updated: April 19, 2017 - 7:38pm

 

CYPRESS COUNTY, AB — It doesn’t take long for a fire to grow out of control, swallowing anything and everything in its path.

Response times are critical when it comes to saving lives and properties.

Cypress County has a contract with the Medicine Hat Fire Service, helping to cover the area from Seven Persons to Schuler.

But a decision to end that agreement by the county is raising concerns over how quickly they’ll be able to get a fire and stop it from spreading.

“Our bills keep going up and up and up for service and we do feel that we can provide the same service that the city is providing to us in house, so we’re looking at going that direction,” said County councillor Dustin Vossler.

Cypress County voted unanimously on Tuesday to not renew its contract for fire protection services with the city.

“A lot of the councillors thought that we could provide service ourselves for a much more reasonable price,” said acting deputy fire chief John McBain, who added that a new fire station in Dunmore wouldn’t have an impact on response times.

“Within the county itself, because everything’s so rural, there’s no guaranteed response time,” he said. “It’s written right into our level of service that we will come, somebody will come to your fire.”

Medicine Hat deputy fire chief Brian Webster said they respond to about 100 calls in the county per year and houses two trucks in two of their stations.

“The county trucks are used for structure fires, for grassland fires, just normal firefighting activities,” Webster said. “They have the ability to drive along the fire edge to put it out.”

It’s costing the county about $360,000 this year.

But a third party suggested those costs could jump over the next few years, something Mayor Ted Clugston said is wrong.

“We’re a little disappointed with that because that number is incorrect,” he said. “That has never been negotiated or talked about and it’s a seven per cent escalation, I think, year after year and that has not been talked about.”

The agreement with the city would continue to the end of the year and come 2018, the county would call on the city, only when needed.

The city would then charge the county per call.

“Even with the City of Medicine Hat agreement, if they’re tied up within the city itself, there’s no guarantee they can actually come to our call if we need them,” McBain said.

“Residents did voice some concern on it,” Vossler said. “I would actually like to reassure them response times, I don’t believe, are going to change very much.”

Clugston said he wants to sit down with county officials, before any decision becomes final.

“I think we’ll try to have a conversation with them, perhaps even try to talk them out of it,” he said.

Farmers head out to fields to begin seeding