Ainsworth fire service to be established in wake of two major fires
By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
When the Silver Ledge Hotel in Ainsworth caught fire last May, the president of the Ainsworth Fire Prevention Society was overwhelmed when he showed up at the scene and the 114-year-old, three-storey building was consumed by flames.
Four months later, Niko Bekker was overwhelmed again, this time by a regional district board of directors’ decision to begin the process of extending fire service to the area from Kaslo.
After an Area D fire service petition process result showed a majority of the respondents in favour of the move (50.2 per cent), the board set the wheels in motion to obtain the necessary legal papers and draft bylaw to make good on the sentiment.
For Bekker, he was moved to speak to the board about what extending the service meant to him.
“It means a lot to our community to have fire coverage and to be able to dial 911 and have someone show up,” he said. “We’re just really thankful for this.”
The Ainsworth blaze came on the heels of another major structure fire four months prior when the 100-year-old Woodbury Hotel burned in November, 2009.
The petition process was a very long one, said Area D director Andy Shadrack. Early on they realized there were many non-resident property owners — around 46 per cent — in the area, and so residents had to search to find people who were around to vote.
Now that the petition has been successful, a bylaw has to be written by the Regional District of Central Kootenay, pending the Village of Kaslo administration finding contract language that assures village residents their liabilities are covered if the fire department deploys equipment outside their current specified area if there was a fire unattended in Kaslo.
The decision to send out men and equipment from Kaslo will be at the discretion of the fire chief in Kaslo, said Mayor Kaslo, Greg Lay.
But it is an easy decision, he said.
“I think the fire in Ainsworth really pointed out that we need more resources there, this is the goal of expanding the fire service,” he said.
“We are doing the best we can with the information we’ve got to take care of our neighbours, because these people are our neighbours and they use our community and we have a valuable relationship,” he said.
The rural members from Ainsworth will also help in Kaslo if there is a call.
Lay said extension of the fire service is the beginning of a trend that will play throughout the regional district over the next few years.
“We are living in a different world now,” he said. “Local fire departments are struggling to provide a service … to larger homes, taller homes on (inadequate) equipment. By pooling resources we have a better chance of saving a house than by each community relying on its own services.”
The rural fire service in Ainsworth has been divided for some time. Although the community raised funds to purchase a 1979 pumper truck one year ago from Kaslo — and fundraised for some basic fire tools — four of the area’s six volunteer members go to Balfour for training, while the other two train in Kaslo.
“We have to amalgamate,” said Bekker. “If they want to continue with the fire service, they will have to come to Kalso.”
A site for the new fire hall could be found in Woodbury, with a water tank, electricity and donated land all coming in one package. It will be a satellite hall from the one in Kaslo. Bekker was not sure what type of equipment the small hall would contain.