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Man comes to the aid of fire department

A local businessman has pledged financial support to the Penticton Fire Department, and he hopes others in the community will do the same.

David Prystay, the general manager of the Penticton Lakeside Resort, says he will pledge $5,000 annually toward re-filling two firefighting positions, as long as other businesses make up the difference. This will be until the city balances their budget and can afford to have those two firefighters on board.

"I'm a firm supporter of our first responders, from our firefighters to our police, search and rescue and paramedics, etc." he said. "Because they are the ones that keep us safe and risk their lives to ensure our safety."

Prsytay said he is further offering support because he used to be a Vancouver police officer, which gives him a better understanding of others who do this kind of selfless work.

His announcement came, after the council decided to not replace two retired firefighters as a way to cut 2014 budget expenses, in the amount of $150,000.

Of the three firefighters who retired last year, only one was replaced, leaving the department to make do with 30 firefighters, rather than the previous 32.

Mike Richards, president of Local 1399, International Association of Firefighters, expressed disappointment with the decision, at the end of the budget talks.

At the time, he said, "We told the city they need six firefighters, with three on each responding engine, and we are now unable to do that. But we will continue to do the best we can."

Prystay's reaction is the city council made the decisions during budget discussions, without talking to the rank and file. 

"My intuition is the council has made this decision and won't change their minds," he said. "So the local community needs to step up at the next election."

Mayor Garry Litke, said the city has assurance from the fire chief, who is responsible for ensuring the safety of the community, that the staffing levels are adequate.

He also reminded the community that four years ago, they increased fire department staffing by four people, so when retirements started coming along, the budget started getting the squeeze.

"We didn't fire anyone, we just didn't replace two people who retired in 2013," he said. "So there are two more firefighters today, than there were in 2009."

Fire chief Wayne Williams was not available for comment Monday morning.

Prystay says other business people have  shown support for his effort,  which he describes as stirring the pot.

"It's just a concept at this point, making a statement to make the city re-think what they have done," he said. "Because who knows if the city could even accept the money."

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