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Bishop’s Falls council sets fire response boundaries

Bishop's Falls Fire Department's response area now strictly defined.
- file photo

Protecting town No. 1 priority, says fire chief

BISHOP’S FALLS, N.L. – Bishop’s Falls Town Council has addressed the Bishop’s Falls Fire Department’s concerns regarding fire response outside of municipal boundaries.

“There was no consistency about where exactly the responding area was for the fire department,” said Bishop’s Falls Mayor Bryan King. “So, we figured we’d draw a line in the sand.”

Council solidified their municipal fire response boundaries and removed any uncertainty or confusion over which fire-related incidents can be handled by the local fire department.

Previously, Bishop’s Falls Fire Chief Gary Harnum would have to relay information regarding fires outside the municipal boundaries to the mayor or deputy mayor for a decision on whether or not to respond. After a council vote, Harnum no longer has to do this, as the response area is strictly defined.

“Now we’ve got written in black and white, here’s where you respond, and this is where you respond to only,” King said. “There’s no going outside those boundaries. That’s it.”

The fire response boundaries stretch from the west side of the Sir Robert Bond Bridge on the Trans-Canada Highway to the first entrance into Bishop’s Falls on the opposite side, and include anything in the community and along the highway. All government buildings between those points, as well as the Exploits Motel and Lion Max Simms Memorial Camp, are included.

King said the fire chief having to call him or the deputy mayor to ask for permission to respond to a fire wasn’t a great system, adding that it delayed response times and potentially could have given a false impression to people who did not have fire protection.

“We thought we’d just make it clear and concise,” he said.

King noted that Bishop’s Falls has mutual aid agreements with Botwood and Grand Falls-Windsor. The Bishop’s Falls Fire Department would assist those communities in the event of a large fire, and vice versa.

“This is what we asked for,” said Harnum. “We didn’t want to get a call to an area just outside of our boundaries and have to make contact with someone to see if we could go or not.”

Harnum, a volunteer chief, didn’t want young or junior firefighters to be put in a position of guessing or making decisions in his or another officer’s absence that would go against council rules.

“We more or less put it to council that we want it to be black and white,” he said. “Either we go, or we don’t go, and this is what we got. We’re pretty well satisfied and situated on what we’ve got now.”

While Harnum is pleased with the decision from council, he said it’s in his blood to go wherever he can to help.

“I’d go to Baie Verte if I had to,” he said. “But you’ve got to look at the council side too. They’re buying the fire equipment, they’re paying the insurance for the firefighters. It’s got to be a cut-off limit somewhere.”

Harnum said he is living within his means, even though he would like to go further.

“The number one priority is the Town of Bishop’s Falls has to be protected,” he said.

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