Town council received some explanation last Thursday, May 26 on the wording of the proposed new fire services bylaw, which was withdrawn during the council’s most recent regular meeting due to the potential of controversy it could creates.
Speaking to councillors during the commitee of the whole meeting on the changes being introduced to the document was Fire Chief Jamie Wilkinson. He explained the purpose behind some of the wording and clarified the proposed flashing green lights use, which had originally only allowed Ponoka Fire Department (PFD) members the right to use.
Originally slated as a request for decision for town council at its May 10 regular meeting, the proposed bylaw was pulled over one clause that only allowed Ponoka Fire Department PFD members use of the green lights, which alert motorists that firefighters are en route to the fire hall.
Wilkinson said that it appeared as if the Ponoka County fire department was not considered in this bylaw. Coun. Carla Prediger suggested that it appeared not to take into account any voluntary firefighter from any community using the green lights.
CAO Albert Flootman says Wilkinson struggled with the provision as the fire chief received complaints of erratic driving from volunteer firefighters, although it is unclear which department members those complaints stemmed from. Flootman said the goal was to provide some latitude to volunteer firefighters and the provision was amended to include firefighters from any jurisdiction.
It appears though, that the main reason for excluding the county department, was in retaliation to the county’s own fire services bylaw, which only allows for county firefighters to use the green lights in its jurisdiction. Wilkinson presented council with the county’s bylaw, which was passed recently.
Wilkinson said there is one PFD member who lives in the county that this would affect.
Prediger, while she appeared surprised by this revelation, asked if there was any communication between Wilkinson and county regional Fire Chief Dennis Jones. The answer was “no.”
“I would like to think that … at a minimum, we have a conversation,” said Prediger.
She said, moving forward between the two departments, that communication between both is an expectation of the town. Mayor Rick Bonnett reiterated her thoughts and said both fire chiefs need to talk considering the proximity of each department.
Updating the bylaw
Wilkinson said the main reason behind the proposed bylaw was to get the town up to speed on the 2014 Alberta Fire Code. As this bylaw had not been changed for some time, since 1997, the new version also adds a new chart for fines to be imposedand enforcement of penalties. The proposed bylaw provides a prohibition to the use of tannerite, an explosive generally used for target practice.
It also clarifies the sale of fireworks and provides ways for the town to track the use of fireworks.
Alberta Fire Code has some restrictions on their use and as there are six businesses in the Town of Ponoka that sell fireworks, council wanted ensure their concerns were heard.
The form, which would be supplied to sellers, provides a blanket approval to sell the fireworks as long as the town can track their sale. Wilkinson says all fireworks have serial numbers. The form would include this data: the name of the buyer, age, address, where and when intended to use and what types of fireworks were purchased.
Prediger and Coun. Teri Underhill requested a way to give sellers a chance to read the actual fire code and the provisions mentioned in the bylaw. Flootman said the guidelines in the fire code related to fireworks will be added to the bylaw.