Cumberland adopts policy officially allowing fire department to respond outside service area

Cumberland now has an official policy in regards to fire rescue services outside its designated area of response.

At Monday’s meeting, council voted to adopt a policy that allows firefighters to leave Cumberland service boundaries to respond to emergencies.

According to Cumberland Fire Chief Mike Williamson, the volunteer fire department has responded to incidents outside its boundary in the past, but not necessarily with council’s permission.

This is specific to calls that are not a part of the Village’s existing agreements, including the Rural Cumberland Fire Services agreement, Comox Valley Fire Rescue mutual aid agreement, and BC First Responder agreement.

“In Cumberland, we’re surrounded by private land that none of our mutual aid covers. So to go outside our boundary, we’re leaving our rescue area … basically without permission from council,” he said. “We thought we had a policy, we couldn’t find it, so we’ve been following our own policy.”

It is unclear why a policy was not already in place in the Village. Mayor Leslie Baird said she remembers the topic coming to council over eight years ago when she was a councillor.

Though the fire department is not obligated to respond to calls outside its service area, a decision is made whether or not to respond based on the discretion of the officer in charge and the severity of the incident.

Williamson says these calls only happen a few times a year, but he doesn’t recall having any issues in the past 20 years.

On most calls, the department is issued a task number for requests outside its area, which gives the fire department reimbursement for eligible expenses, insurance and WorkSafeBC coverage. But even without a task number, the responders are still covered through the Village’s liability insurance.

Williamson also assured council that when firefighters respond to incidents outside their service area, the Village is still protected through the Comox Valley Fire Rescue mutual aid agreement.

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