Lac St. Anne County is preparing to file an injunction against a private firefighting company amid allegations the private company is crossing into its jurisdiction.
Randy Schroeder, fire chief for Lac Ste. Anne County, said the injunction comes after several alleged incidents where Northwest Fire Rescue did not remain in its contracted jurisdiction.
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Northwest Fire Rescue, which is based in Onoway and Alberta Beach, began providing private firefighting services to nine communities on Jan. 1. Alberta Beach, Castle Island, Nakamun Park, Onoway, Silver Sands, South View, Sunset Point, Val Quentin and Yellowstone are now all covered by the company. It also has Mutual Aid Agreements with Parkland County Fire Services, Sturgeon County Protective Services and Alexander First Nation but not with Lac St. Anne.
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“We’ve had a couple instances of non-dispatch responses into our areas that we were dispatched to,” Schroeder said.
“We are taking it as a potential safety risk and just an outright ignorance of our requests at this time. Just for the safety of our members and our responses and the public, we’re just requesting that they stay in [their area] but they seem to be ignoring those requests.”
Schroeder said the presence of the private contractor is impeding the work of the fire department.
“That can create a problem. That can create a problem for traffic. That can create a problem for bystanders that are in the immediate area and of course first responders,” he said.
Schroder said the county does not need the assistance of Northwest Fire Rescue.
“They have continuously requested that they be allowed to come in but we have the position that simply says we have enough resources and we have enough capabilities for sure that surpass what the needs are and if we need them, we’ll basically call them,” he said.
David Ives, the fire chief of Northwest Fire Rescue, disputes the allegations, saying they have “zero merit.” He said the private contractor has not worked beyond its jurisdiction, except in three cases.
Ives said there were two cases where his crews responded to vehicle incidents on the highway and one where he happened to drive by a house fire on his way to work.
Ives said incidents on the highway, which fall under provincial jurisdiction, do not fall specifically to any fire crew.
“When you’re the first on the scene, it would be pretty darn disrespectful to those that are injured or at risk if a fully manned, fully qualified truckload of firefighters and medics were just to drive by without offering assistance.”
He also said he was being a good neighbour when he stopped, in a personal capacity, to check on the house fire.
Ives said the private firefighting company has not yet received the injunction but plans to fight it.