A move to make all volunteer fire halls in the region dry has been doused temporarily.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s Policy Executive and Personnel (PEP) Committee recently tabled a push to restrict alcohol in regional halls after receiving resistance following consultations last month.
“The concern that the committee members expressed is that it’s difficult enough to attract and get volunteers to come out and make the commitments that are necessary to be a volunteer firefighter and if all of a sudden we start losing people because of this kind of move, that it might not be received very well,” explained John MacLean, RDKB chief administrative officer.
There was feeling amongst the leadership of the fire service and of the regional district that this is something to look at, especially after Warfield made the decision to remove alcohol from its hall.
MacLean said it was an internal decision, not due to any incidents.
The committee looked to the Regional District of Central Kootenay, which adopted a very similar policy for their volunteer fire halls four years ago in response to serious in-house alcohol-related incidents that resulted in rape and death.
“In like many things in life, the majority of the fire halls and the majority of the firefighters did not abuse the privilege and after practice would have one or two beers,” explained Terry Swan, regional fire chief for Central Kootenay.
“But as we all know in society, it only takes one or two individuals to create a huge problem.”
After spending over 30 years as a career firefighter in the Lower Mainland, Swan came on board six months after the change had been made.
Zero-tolerance in the hall is what he was used to so personally it didn’t have an impact on him. But he was pleased to see that after the dry hall policy was implemented, more people came on board.
“Those were the threats and those were the same rattling things that went to our board prior to it. You know, ‘Everybody is going to resign, you’re not going to have any firefighters.’”
In fact, none of that materialized, he said, adding that a new type of first responders were attracted to the job.
“If we talk about anecdotal, I have many conversations with fire chiefs now saying that they’re getting a younger crop of people that are interested in being in the fire service and prior to that, they always sort of viewed the volunteer fire service as an all-boys club and a place for the guys to go have a beer on a Tuesday night.”
The new policy still allows for a liquor license being put in place during special event, he said.
The PEP committee has not washed this policy down and will review it in the future.