Graham Kerslake

Graham Kerslake

New deputy fire chief, fire ban discussed in Radium

Graham Kerslake will be joining the Radium Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department as the deputy fire chief.

Graham Kerslake will be joining the Radium Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department as the deputy fire chief.

Radium Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department chief Dave Dixon appointed Kerslake at the regular August 12th council meeting at the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

“Graham has been with us for eight years (as a volunteer firefighter) and he has worked hard for us during that time,” Dixon told council. “He was quite responsive to take over (the) position in both training and deputy fire chief duties. In conjunction with the deputy fire chief duties, I would also like to recommend that I go through the process of appointing Graham as the local assistant to the fire commissioner because we only have two in the village… so having another one is not a bad idea.”

Kerslake will oversee fire safety and emergency management strategies for the Radium Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department team effective immediately.

The recommendation was unanimously supported by Village of Radium Hot Springs mayor Clara Reinhardt and council.

“Welcome, Graham,” said Reinhardt. “I think we will also benefit from your training as a new Emergency Medical Responder and the instructor status that you’re trying to achieve.”

In addition, Dixon provided an update on the provincial fire ban to council.

“It’s still on,” he said about the fire ban. “In talking to Wildfire BC on Tuesday, August 11th, they did not anticipate taking it off anytime soon.”

Village of Radium Hot Springs councillor Ron Verboom queried Dixon about the differences between municipal, provincial and federal practices for burning.

Verboom added his daughter Kelsey Verboom and the Canyon RV Resort & Campground have both asked him for clarification about the what’s acceptable during the fire ban. He noted the bans remained during the heavy precipitation and rainfall that have recently occurred in the Columbia Valley.

“We are tourism-based here and if we have happy campers, they’re going to come back and it’s good for the town,” he explained. “I think when we have situations where, quite openly, it’s different than a lot of other parts of the province, or even the southern half of the Kootenays. Here, we can make our own decisions, and it’s not a big or onerous task to lift or install a fire ban, and put it back in place.”

Dixon urged Verboom and council to continue to follow the provincial guidelines about fire bans.

“We’ve already had four complaints,” Dixon said, noting there would be too much confusion to regularly change the municipal rules about fires. “Why would you want to put yourself in jeopardy by allowing fires in the community when all around you (they’re) still not in effect? We had a situation just south of Skookumchuck last week. It was an illegal fire that got away and 19 hectares later, air tankers, helicopters and crews with a bill of probably $50,000 or $60,000. Why would you want to put yourself in that situation?”

Village of Radium Hot Springs councilor Karen Larsen expressed a strong sense of support for Dixon’s explanation about fire safety and emphasized the importance of looking after the community as a whole.

“I stand behind (Dixon’s) recommendation,” said Larsen. “I think taking a fire ban on and off and on and off will confuse the situation. Considering where we live in this location, we’re putting ourselves at risk — and for every really responsible person that’s out there, there’s always the clowns. We can’t police that, and we don’t want to see anybody in jeopardy, so it’s unfortunate but fall is just around the corner and the ban will be off soon.”

“I think campfires are a privilege, not a right,” said Reinhardt about the discussion. “I think what I’m hearing is that we could have a motion on the table (to put a policy in place about burning) but if it were to pass and we (gave) the chief the latitude (to lift fire bans locally), he’s pretty clear on his position, so it was a good discussion.”

Alternatively, Dixon suggested the village could explore the option of establishing a weather station to improve access to information.

“It captures temperature, humidity, wind direction, speed and rainfall over 24 hours and they’re all plugged into the table to come up at the fire station,” said Dixon. “In my experience with dealing with fire weather for Canfor and Slocan for 25 years, they’re very conservative in how they’re accessed.”

His recommendation was accepted as information.