Council Briefs: Mill closure means fire risk for Canal Flats

Village of Canal Flats’ November 23rd council meeting,was alerted to a looming problem related to the closure of the Canfor sawmill

At the Village of Canal Flats’ November 23rd council meeting, council was alerted to a looming problem related to the closure of the Canfor sawmill — a loss of volunteer firefighting capacity and firefighting equipment in the village.

In his September and October Canal Flats Fire Rescue report, fire chief David Ferguson noted that the village’s already-small fire department is getting even smaller, with attendance varying from nine to just three members present over the course of the past nine weekly meetings.

Upon reading the news, Coun. Paul Marcil suggested council meet soon with the fire chief to find out how serious the problem is, and how many regular members the department needs to operate effectively.

Chief administrative officer Brian Woodward also noted the Canfor mill itself poses a fire hazard, and that there’s no guarantee Canfor will keep its own fire suppression equipment on site at the mill.

He added that, by his count, the volunteer fire department has lost seven members, many of whom are still living in Canal Flats, but are now working out of town and unable to spare the time to attend the meetings.

The fire department had a total of four callouts over the past two months. In each case, it was a first aid call rather than a fire to be dealt with.


Worker transition continues

A special hire funded by the Columbia Basin Trust will work on helping to develop ideas generated by the Canal Flats working group that’s seeking to find future directions for the village in the wake of the recent mill closure.

The new employee will be concerned more so with flushing out ideas rather than general economic development, Columbia Basin Trust director of special initiatives Kindy Gosal told group members on the November 5th worker transition call.

The conference calls, held roughly twice a month since the mill closure was imminent, include representatives from the provincial Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, the Ministry of Advanced Education, the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, College of the Rockies, the Industry Training Authority, WorkBC, Canfor, Family Dynamix, and Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras.

Also in the November 5th call, Canfor informed the group that it has opened up three to four production positions that were slated to begin at the company’s Elko mill on November 14th. Former Canal Flats mill employees were to be offered transfers to Elko based on an undisclosed selection process.

The next Worker Transition Call will take place on January 5th. There’s no agreed-upon end date as to how long these meetings will continue.


Business liaison on deck


A business expansion and recruitment specialist for Canal Flats is one step closer to reality after council authorized the preparation of a request for an expression of interest to fulfill a $50,000 position to be funded through the Columbia Basin Trust.

The contractor would assist the Village of Canal Flats in screening potential new businesses, investigating public-private partnership opportunities and implementing an economic development strategy with a community visioning process for the village.


Tree of Lights to shine for weeks

Canal Flats residents will get a chance to reflect and remember community members who passed away this year thanks to a special Tree of Lights event that will start in December and last for six weeks.

While the Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley began putting on the Tree of Lights event in Invermere last year, a difficult year marked by more than half a dozen deaths in the close-knit Canal Flats community led to the idea of creating a tree in the village (to be erected outside the Columbia Discovery Centre building that houses the council chambers) as well.

“The Tree of Lights is a way to honour their memory and help with the grieving process,” said Daneve McAffer, a Hospice Society volunteer from Canal Flats. The idea arose after a member of the Canal Flats seniors group suggested it to McAffer. The village saw two brothers pass away in the same year, a man drown in the Findlay Creek, and other unfortunate events.

The Tree of Lights is similar to a Christmas tree, except the eight-foot tall tree is decorated with white lights and name cards of those who have passed away. The tree stays lit day and night, starting on Friday, December 11th.

A $10 name card can be purchased before December 4th by contacting,  emailing or calling 250-688-1143. All proceeds are used to support Hospice Society programs such as bereavement support groups, home visits and “walk and talk” groups.