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Opinion  

To let it burn... or not

A spectacular house fire this week has reignited community discussion about fire protection.

The upscale Twin Creek Ranch burned to the ground despite efforts to save it. But, in reality, firefighters shouldn't have even been there.

The guest retreat was located just outside the Ellison Fire Protection Area. Its driveway actually straddles the boundary.

Several homes in the area fall outside the fire protection area, and, across the Okanagan and province, thousands of homes have no recourse should a fire break out. 

Homeowners must weigh their desire for privacy and rural living with the added risk. They may save on property taxes, but they pay much more in home insurance. And, should the worst happen, they are unfortunately out of luck. But not without reason.

Firstly, residents within fire protection areas pay taxes for that service. Some don't want to be included and don't want to pay for it. It's human nature to want to help our common man – and in major disasters, of course different rules apply. But, outside such times, should those who don't pay receive a taxpayer-funded service?

Secondly, firefighters are not covered by liability insurance or workers' compensation if they cause damage or are injured while working outside their mandate.

Lastly, a majority of homeowners in a given area must vote to join the protection area – and the local government must then approve it. If such an expansion would create the need for a major outlay in equipment and manpower, regional directors could turn it down.

Twin Creek Ranch is not the only example. Last year, a Peachland home was left to burn, and residents of one neighbourhood there could not muster enough support to join the fire protection area.

The bottom line is there are two choices. Either it's pay to play and some go without, or everyone gets fire protection regardless of where they live, and everyone's taxes go up to pay for it.

— News Director Jon Manchester

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