Chawathil First Nation council has agreed to re-new and sign their fire service agreement with the District of Hope after much discussion between the two governing bodies.
Chawathil First Nation invited the District of Hope to their council meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 31), in order to finalize the fire service agreement between the two communities. Mayor Victor Smith, along with the Chief Administrative Officer John Fortoloczky and the Hope Fire Department’s Fire Chief Thomas Cameron, were in attendance and spoke with Chawathil chief and councillors about any concerns they might have.
During the meeting, Cameron explained that, as part of the agreement, the fire services that the Hope Fire Department provide to Hope would also be provided to Chawathil. This includes equipment, firefighters, and other services currently received by Hope.
As this is a municipal service agreement, Chawathil will contribute financially to the fire service.
Coun. Aaron Pete said he had no issue with the agreement and stressed the importance of signing the agreement “sooner than later” to council.
“The recent fire shows that we should sign this as soon as possible because that structure (house) was burnt to the ground,” said Pete, reminding council of the house fire that took place on Jan. 15.
READ MORE: Response to house fire on Chawathil First Nation shows progress between Chawathil and Hope
Chawathil did not have immediate access to their own fire truck and equipment at the time of the fire, due to their fire chief and fire crew attending to business outside of Chawathil. While Chawathil’s fire chief did return to address the fire, Hope Fire Department had arrived on scene and had the blaze under control.
One issue brought up was the apparent delay in communication between the Hope Fire Department and Chawathil, and the time it took for the fire department to get to the community to put out the January fire. Cameron provided an explanation for the delay and said that it’s reason included the call going to the chief officer on duty that night, who followed “usual procedure for out of area” calls.
“The other part of the delay was that we didn’t’ get paged directly for the address in question that night. So, we had no idea where we were going,” Cameron said. “After communication with Aaron, we were able to pinpoint the parameters of where the structure was and we sent out a few trucks to deal with the situation. Not the quickest response but we have a better idea of where locations and houses are now.
“I think it was about an eight-minute response time. So, you’ll see a better response time in the future.”
The lack of clarity, regarding the addresses in Chawathil, was also acknowledged by council who agreed that improvement was also needed on their part.
“We also realized that we need to improve on identifying where the driveways are for transportation,” Chief Chetlámetleqw Norman Florence said. “We’re looking to get more physical reflectors to help [mark where] the driveways are.
“So I understand that’s definitely something we can improve.”
Another concern brought up, by Coun. Kelsey John, was whether there would be active communication, along with training provided, between Hope’s fire department and Chawathil’s fire department. This was immediately addressed and explained by Pete that, as per the agreement, there would be active communication between both fire departments, as well as training services.
During the meeting, both parties expressed that they see this agreement as the beginning of a new relationship. Both groups are eager to see how they can collaborate further.
“Thank you for making this headway with us,” Smith said. “I know we have other conversations going on with you. We also talked with Aaron about doing an Earth Day out here. Trying to help clean up and work together on that project. And also Mr. Fortoloczky and I talked with Aaron about the possibility of making a safer pathway to Hope.
“So, we hope some of these things can be addressed. We very much look forward to dealing with you and your council.”
Smith also thanked council for inviting the District to Chawathil.
Pete, on behalf of the council, also thanked the District and Cameron for being willing to expand the existing agreement. He says that “this is a reconciliation in action.”
As some of council attended the meeting via zoom, the service agreement will be signed when the chief and all councillors can convene together in-person.
Dragon’s Back Trail
Aside from the fire service agreement, council also discussed, and were informed of, plans for the Kw’okw’echíwel Stl’áleqem trail (colloquially known as the Dragon’s Back trail) by Kelly Pearce, who works for the Hope Mountain Centre. According to the Mountain Centre’s website, the centre “is currently working with Stó:lo archaeologists and a Stó:lo artist to develop interpretive signs with Indigenous historical information along the Kw’okw’echíwel Stl’áleqem trail, thanks to the Province of British Columbia’s 150 Time Immemorial Grant Program.”
The next Chawathil council meeting will take place later this month. Council meetings are currently not open to the public at this time.
READ MORE: Indigenous History Hike marks National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Hope
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