Swift Current Fire Department renews fire protection and rescue agreements

By Matthew Liebenberg

The renewal of several fire protection and rescue agreements by the Swift Current Fire Department with local authorities and SaskPower will ensure that appropriate emergency services are available when needed in the region.

Fire Chief Ryan Hunter presented five different agreements and council members approved each one during a regular City of Swift Current council meeting, Jan. 22.

The services that will be provided by the Swift Current Fire Department to the different parties will vary, which made it necessary to prepare separate legal documents.

“I’m happy to see these agreements have been re-signed,” Councillor Tom Christiansen said. “The southwest is really one big community and it’s important we understand we’re all in this together.”

At the same time, he felt it was important that the rates for services provided by the Swift Current Fire Department must cover all expenses and that City ratepayers should not be subsidizing any of the protective services for other communities.

Hunter confirmed that the terms of each agreement will ensure cost recovery for the service provision by the Swift Current Fire Department.

“The rates we have cover the cost of another crew coming in to man the station while one crew leaves the city,” he said. “They cover the costs of our wear and tear on our vehicles. They cover the cost of certifying our pumps and the safety of the vehicle through SGI. We also have a provision that if we use disposable items like a firefighting foam or if we damage any equipment, that is also something that we can charge for so that the City does not have to pay extra fees for our disposables.”

The protective services agreement with the Village of Stewart Valley and the Rural Municipality (R.M.) of Saskatchewan Landing No. 167 specifies that the Swift Current Fire Department will respond for structural fire suppression, rescue and dangerous good incidents. However, the local volunteer fire department will deal with wildfires.

The hourly rate for each service or fire truck provided by the Swift Current Fire Department will increase with $100 per year over the four-year period of the contract. Rescue services will increase from $1,900 in 2024 to $2,200 in 2027. The cost of a hazardous material response will increase from $3,500 in 2024 to $3,800 in 2027. The use of a fire truck with a ladder will change from $2,550 in 2024 to $2,850 in 2027.

The same fee schedule is used for the fire protection and rescue agreement with the R.M. of Swift Current No. 137. The City will only provide these services when requested by the R.M. of Swift Current. Both fire departments will provide a joint response to any incidents at the Swift Current Research and Development Centre as well as the Swift Current Airport and the City landfill. Each fire department will be responsible for its own cost to respond to calls at these specific locations.

The mutual aid agreement with 26 other municipalities has been renewed for a new four-year term until the end of 2027.Hunter noted that the agreement has been improved with clearer definitions.”

“The revised agreement empowers neighbouring municipalities to promptly seek assistance from one another or extend support during significant emergencies or disasters,” he said. “Additionally, it established standardized rates for equipment and manpower, aligning with provincial standards for farm equipment charges.”

The Swift Current Fire Department’s rescue services agreement with five municipalities was renewed for a four-year period until the end of 2027. This agreement is for the provision of vehicle extrication and specialized rescue services to the R.M.’s of Whiska Creek No. 106, Coulee No. 136, Excelsior No. 166, Saskatchewan Landing No. 167 and Riverside No. 168.

The wind tower rescue agreement with SaskPower was renewed for a four-year period until 2027. The Swift Current Fire Department will provide rescue services at the Centennial wind power facility southwest of Swift Current, which has 83 wind turbines, and at the Cypress wind power facility west of Gull Lake, where there are 16 wind turbines.

“What we do out there is we rescue the people who may be trapped in that nacelle, which is the very top where they could be working on the mechanical portion of the wind tower,” he said. “We’re not expected to fight fire at the top of that. We’re expected to get any staff, if they’re injured or if they’re trapped, freed and down to the ground safe.”

Swift Current firefighters have received specialized training to allow them to carry out such high-angle rescue efforts. This contract with SaskPower has been in place since November 2008, but so far there has been no need for such a rescue on any wind turbine. Firefighters will do an annual training session at one of these wind power facilities as part of the SaskPower agreement.

“We are the only high-angle rescue in southwest Saskatchewan that’s certified that I’m aware of,” he said. “It’s something that’s highly specialized and extremely rare that a fire department has that level of technology and abilities. And we do, because we have the wind towers in our area and we have the inland grain terminals, which are extremely high in the area. And we also have the oil field rescue, when people are up in the tandem rigs and such.”

Hunter believes it is crucial to have these fire protection and rescue agreements with other authorities in the region.

“We happen to be in a sparsely populated area and not every town or village has the ability to have all the equipment and all the training and all the staffing that it requires to do these things,” he said. “So by us being able to sign these agreements and be able to go out of town to help our neighbours, it’s absolutely vital.”

Council gives notice of combined water and wastewater rate increase:

Council members approved a notice of motion during the regular council meeting on Jan. 22 to advise the public of their intention to amend the water and wastewater rates.

There is an annual two per cent rate increase to fund the operation of the combined water and wastewater utility, but for 2024 there will be an additional one per cent rate increase.

City General Manager of Infrastructure Greg Parsons noted that the perpetual annual increase of two per cent was approved by council in November 2017 and it is applied each year on Jan. 1.

This year’s additional one per cent rate increase is necessary to offset budget expenses and capital investments for the 2024 fiscal year. The proposed implementation is scheduled to start with the Feb. 1 billing period.

“During the preparation of the 2024 municipal budget, it was determined that the current combined water and wastewater rates for 2024 would not be adequate to generate the amount of revenue required to support infrastructure improvements and operating cost increases in 2024 and into the future,” he said.