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No contract renewal for Okanagan Landing Fire Department

The Okanagan Landing Volunteer Fire Department was founded almost 40 years ago and its members pride themselves on their community involvement.

But in six months, the fire department will cease to exist. Vernon City Council recently voted not to renew the fire department’s contract.

The decision means volunteer firefighters with the Okanagan Landing Fire Department will now integrate with Vernon firefighters. But some members liken it to the end of an era.

“As one of our members put it, it’s like having a band of 30 brothers,” said Ed Forslund, former fire chief of the Okanagan Landing Fire Department. “There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into the department and we almost feel like we’ve been thrown out of our own home.”

Vernon’s fire chief, however, favours the union and says there is value in having uniform protocols for all firefighters in the area.

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“I think having a united, cohesive firefighting force is important to our community,” said Keith Green, Vernon fire chief.

As recently as Tuesday, Okanagan Landing volunteer firefighters joined forces with Vernon firefighters to successfully battle a blaze above Bella Vista Road in Vernon.

But concerns have been raised by some members of city council about the volunteers’ level of training, allegations that are especially tough for the former chief to stomach.

“I’m sorry if I’m a bit emotional but I take that as a slight against our members here. They’re well trained,” Forslund said.

Volunteer firefighter Todd Montgomery says he is going to retire because of the pending changes.

“I don’t think that the Vernon Firefighters’ Association will provide what I cam here for. I don’t want to be a part of that model. I’m very sad to see this model go,” Montgomery said.

And Forslund worries that the upcoming union will be the death knell for the volunteer fire department as it has been known.

“Give us the opportunity to maintain our history and have some pride in our community and our hall.”

The move to unify the two fire departments is expected to save the City of Vernon about $60,000 annually.
 

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