Cash boosted for highway crash response

Alberta fire departments are pleased to hear the province will provide more money to cover the costs of responding to highway collisions.

Alberta fire departments are pleased to hear the province will provide more money to cover the costs of responding to highway collisions.

The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association had lobbied the Alberta government to update the compensation fire departments received for the cost of sending large equipment, such as pumper trucks and rescue vans, to incidents on provincial primary and secondary highways.

Alberta Transportation Minister Wayne Drysdale announced at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties last week in Edmonton that fees for large equipment will be bumped to $600 per hour from $400 — a level they had been at for 15 years.

The province also promised to increase the fees annually using the cost of living index.

Al Schram, Alberta Fire Chiefs Association vice-president, said the changes will be welcomed.

“It’s great news,” said Schram, who is fire chief in Edson.

The new rate more accurately reflects the actual costs of sending heavy equipment to highway incidents, he said.

Typically, fire departments try to recoup their costs through insurance companies. However, that does not always work, particularly with out-of-province drivers and insurers. So that fire departments and their municipalities are not out of pocket, the province has covered the shortfalls.

But those rates had fallen behind, leaving municipalities and their taxpayers to make up the difference.

Red Deer County community and protective services director Ric Henderson said the change is welcomed.

“It’s a good thing. It’s a way of recovering some of the costs for the municipality,” said Henderson. “It’s been discussed for a long time.”

The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association represents 450 rural and urban fire chiefs, who oversee 13,000 firefighters, 10,000 of them volunteers.

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