Changes to Melfort rural firefighting policy

By Cam Lee
January 10, 2019 - 5:00pm

A big change is coming to residents and businesses covered by the Melfort District Rural Firefighting Department.

The board of directors has decided to discontinue automatic responses to home or business fire alarms, until they are authenticated by a witness.

Fire chief Jason Everett said that in previous cases, the department has almost immediately been notified by dispatch, triggering trucks to roll.

"What happens then at that point, there's a bill that ends up being submitted to the ratepayer and that bill is several hundred dollars," said Everett. "Even if the firefighters respond to the hall and then they're stood down, there's still a cost to that...it could be two or three hundred dollars and that cost is put back on the ratepayer and it's their responsibility to pay for that."

Everett said the majority of calls from third party monitoring services are false alarms.

"Chances are, and it's been our experience, that it's something other than an actual fire," said Everitt. "It could be a cooking incident, it could be steam from a shower, it could be dust from renovations."

Often the ratepayer is quite upset when the fire trucks arrive, said Everett, as they know a bill will be sent to them.

The policy has been in place in Prince Albert for a number of years. Everitt was chief in P.A. before coming to Melfort last year.

In the city, the fire department responds to those types of calls as they are covered through taxation, said Everitt.

People that have an account with a third party monitoring service are urged to keep them up-to-date with proper contact information. Everett said the monitoring company will go down the list to contact people to ensure the incident is indeed an emergency before they dispatch fire crews.

Everett said the problem with false alarm calls go beyond dollars and cents.

"It's pulling resources out of the central area needlessly," said Everitt.  "We send a defined number out in the rural area so we always keep a contingent here in the city to look after issues, but still it's pulling resources out of the service area here, or the core area, for a response that isn't required."

Everett said even if the homeowner is home at the time, often they are flustered by the alarm going off and ignore the phone call from the monitoring company, thus triggering the call to 9-1-1 to dispatch trucks to the rural home or business.

Monitored residences and businesses in the villages of Weldon and Beatty, and the RM's of Star City, Flett's Springs, Willow Creek, Kinistino and Pleasantdale covered by the Melfort Rural Firefighting agreement are affected by the change.

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