Further to the discussions underway between Sun Peaks, the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) and the Whitecroft Community Association (WCA), a meeting to determine the feasibility of extending Sun Peaks’ fire protection to include Whitecroft, took place on September 10, 2013.
Helen Jones, president of the WCA explained the talks were favourable for extending the fire protection — an agreement that’s not unprecedented in the province already.
“Chase, Barriere, Clinton, Cache Creek, Ashcroft — (rural fire protection agreements) are very common,” explained Ron Storie, manager of community services for the TNRD.
The hurdle for Whitecroft residents is in voting to absorb the cost of the fire protection service.
“Sun Peaks wants to help us, they want to provide a service, but obviously we have to cover some costs of this,” Jones stated. “They want to help us and don’t see any reason why they can’t, but it’s up to us to vote it in.”
A public meeting will take place in February or March 2014, and Whitecroft property owners will be asked to vote on adopting or rejecting fire protection from Sun Peaks.
“I think it’s really important that the residents understand what they’re going to be asked, and we’re going to be going there with a meeting in the spring in order to say this is what you’re getting in to, and this is how much it’s going to cost, and this is the fire protection area, this is the service that’s associated with it,” explained Storie. “To be clear, we want to be very upfront and transparent about what it is they’re going to get for their dollar and then it’s up to them to make that decision.”
The possible coverage will include only Whitecroft homes, and the first property on the Upper Louis Creek road. This boundary was determined by the range of the fire hydrants already in place, but Jones notes the discussions on extending that coverage may open over time if the vote is passed.
To prepare for the spring meeting, Jones urges residents to contact their home insurance providers and gauge the cost benefits of having fire protection.
“People have to phone their insurance companies and ask what the price would be if they were a 3A fire protected property . . . then they can go to the public meeting with all the costs,” explains Jones. “(At the meeting) the TNRD will have all of our assessments in their system, so then they’ll be able to tell people exactly what it will cost in terms of taxes (to be fire covered). When they come out with the figures (homeowners) will know, ‘OK, I’m going to pay that in taxes, and I’m going to get that break on insurance.’ ”
The vote will take place during the spring public meeting, and ballots will be enclosed with property taxes for absentee owners. More than 50 per cent of property owners must respond to the vote, and of them over 50 per cent must be in favour of adopting Sun Peaks fire protection.
“Benefits would be to save your property and save your neighbour’s house if you had a fire,” says Jones. “Also it’s more of a desirable area — the value of the property will be more because your property will be protected. A lot of people don’t want (to invest in) ‘unprotected’ properties, and also, you’re going to get a break on your insurance.”
If this vote is adopted, SPFR will begin covering Whitecroft as of January 2015. If the vote is not passed, the matter will be permanently closed, explained Jones.
“I’m quite positive; everyone I’ve spoken to is quite positive, I think it’s going to be a benefit to the community,” concludes Jones. “We have the hydrants, why not use them? And the figures they’re talking about are a lot more reasonable than previously, it’s so much more doable for people financially. We want people to vote yes.”