Province backs volunteer firefighters

New government legislation to protect municipalities and their fire departments from liability is a welcome show of provincial support, say area municipal leaders.

New government legislation to protect municipalities and their fire departments from liability is a welcome show of provincial support, say area municipal leaders.

Delburne Mayor Bob Manning said anything the government can do to help municipalities recruit and retain volunteer firefighters is a step in the right direction.

In announcing the introduction of legislation to extend liability protection, Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk acknowledged the challenge many municipalities face in keeping their firefighting ranks filled, especially communities that rely on local volunteers.

“This legislation is a key part of the government’s response to improve the ability of municipalities to support their fire services and support our goal of creating strong and effective communities.”

Delburne put out an urgent call for volunteers earlier this year after the local department dwindled to only a handful of members. The recruiting drive proved successful and about a dozen firefighters have committed to answer the alarm in the village 35 km east of Red Deer.

Manning said municipalities have been lobbying through their provincial organizations for the changes for some time and he’s glad to see progress has been made.

“The government recognizes that to have volunteers out fighting fires they have to support us. Not all of us can afford paid firefighters.

“Our fire department is doing basically the same work professionals are, but on a volunteer basis.”

The amendment to Bill 49 will extend to municipalities and their fire departments the “good faith” liability protection that individual firefighters have. The good faith provision offers liability protection on the grounds that firefighters and their department acted with good intentions and according to their duty, says the government.

Alberta Fire Chiefs Association president Brian Cornforth said the legislative changes are a response to the increasing number of lawsuits over the last 10 years that have named departments and municipalities.

“It’s starting to surface here in Alberta where fire departments have been drawn into the legal arena,” said Cornforth.

While most of the cases have occurred in the bigger centres, there have been occasions where small communities have been named in legal action.

Red Deer County Mayor Earl Kinsella also supported the government’s move.

“Anything that you can do to help us attract and keep well-trained volunteers is really appreciated by the county,” he said. “They are very important to us for the safety of the residents of the county.”

Ric Henderson, the county’s director of community and protective services, said “every little bit of liability protection helps.”

Municipal Affairs spokesman Tim Chander said by extending liability protection, firefighters can go about their jobs knowing there are measures in place to prevent their municipalities or departments getting involved in frivolous lawsuits. Similar protection is already in place for other first responders, such as police departments.

“We want firefighters to spend their time fighting fires versus using their time to prepare for court cases.”

Both the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties have pushed for the legislative changes.

The amendments were to go to second reading Tuesday. They could become law as early as this spring.

Just Posted

Ride to Conquer Cancer cancels but Red Deerian keeps going

Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer was cancelled due to smoke

Red Deer woman saving animals at wildlife centre with TV show

Victoria Bolhuis, 22, interned at Hope for Wildlife for 10 weeks before moving into paid position

Record-breaking year in Red Deer for smoke

Expect more smoke in Red Deer Wednesday

Mustard Seed prepares people for workforce

Employment Readiness Fair to be held August 28

Updated Red Deer smoke free bylaw to ban smoking cannabis in public

Smoke Free Bylaw returns to Red Deer city council Sept. 4

Kim XO is Black Press Media’s fashionista

Starting Sept. 7, stylist Kim XO will host Fashion Fridays on the Life channel on Black Press Media

Liberals unveil poverty plan with lofty goals, but no new spending programs

OTTAWA — The minister in charge of Canada’s latest national plan to… Continue reading

Case of truck driver charged in Humboldt Broncos crash adjourned until October

MELFORT, Sask. — The case of a Calgary truck driver charged in… Continue reading

Animal crackers break out of their cages

After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of… Continue reading

Alligator kills woman trying to protect her dog at resort

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — A woman who often walked her dog… Continue reading

Patients redirected as water leak shuts down Edmonton hospital’s emergency room

EDMONTON — Ambulances are being redirected to other hospitals after a water… Continue reading

Parks Canada moves second bison bull that wandered out of Banff National Park

BANFF — Parks Canada says a second bison bull that wandered out… Continue reading

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is scrapping an unpopular lottery system for… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month