Salmon Arm  

Some CSRD firefighters take leave of absence over vax requirement

Some leave over mandate

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District reassures residents fire protection is not disrupted by its new COVID vaccination policy.

The CSRD says fire protection service remains in place following implementation of a proof of vaccination policy that includes all elected officials, employees, paid on-call firefighters and volunteers.

However, some firefighters have opted for a leave of absence rather than provide proof of vaccination.

“We respect the firefighters’ right to make their own decisions about vaccination,” protective services spokesperson Derek Sutherland said in a press release, Friday. “But as an organization, we need to be committed to the safety of our teams and the public. This policy was put in place by the board because vaccines are among the best methods of protecting the health and safety of you, and those around you, from the risks of COVID-19.”

Despite the loss of some members, Sutherland assures the public that high-quality fire services will be maintained in all the CSRD’s 13 fire departments.

Most of the departments have sufficient fully vaccinated members to maintain accreditations, and current fire response times should not be affected.

“This has been difficult. Firefighters become like a family and we did not want to lose anyone. Should circumstances change, we hope to be welcoming them back,” said Sutherland.

The Swansea Point department had its membership drop below the Fire Underwriters Survey’s recommended 15 members, but this does not mean residents would lose fire insurance or see premiums rise dramatically, said Sutherland.

“The Fire Underwriters Survey wants to see that we have a plan for how to address the situation, and they are happy to work with us,” says Sutherland. “They are very aware from departments around the country that there can be an ebb and flow with recruitment.”

In the few cases where membership has dipped, Sutherland says coverage will be maintained through mutual aid agreements with other firehalls.

The Swansea Point fire chief has retired, and fire service co-ordinator Sean Coubrough will assume leadership.

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