Future of rescue services unclear for Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park

The future of Banff Fire Department rescue services along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park is unclear.

Banff has had a 10-year agreement in place to respond to accidents and medical calls on Highway 93 in the park since 2014.

In a meeting with the Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay Field Unit, the city was informed that Parks Canada was not legally responsible for the road rescue and that they wanted to cancel the agreement by the end of this year.

At a town council meeting on Monday, fire chief Silvio Adamo told Banff councilors that Parks Canada had reversed its decision — for the time being.

“We have received a letter from the superintendent advising us that they have reconsidered the termination and will honor the agreement until the end of his original contract,” Adamo said, adding that this means they will continue with the rescues. until the end of 2023. « They ‘I made it very clear afterwards that they would not return to another deal.’

Currently, if there is a medical, fire, or road rescue call on Highway 93, the Town of Banff Fire Department responds to calls from the British Columbia side of Kootenay National Park. Approximately 70 kilometers from the town of Banff, or halfway to Radium on Highway 93.

City of Invermere and Town of Banff emergency response teams meet between Vermillion Crossing and Kootenay Crossing.

Adamo called this good and bad news for the future of this emergency service and its funding.

City says it has no legal obligation to respond

« For me, it’s a moral issue and it’s a financial issue, » the adviser said. said Hugh Pettigrew.

According to a report to Banff City Council, these calls typically represent about 1% of the fire department’s budget. But with the Kicking Horse Canyon section of Highway 1 closing this year, that figure has risen to about 3% of the budget due to increased traffic on Highway 93.

Adamo said the Banff Fire Department also has no legal responsibility for the service and does so « out of the goodness of the taxpayers’ hearts. »

« We want to do the right thing, that’s our job, to help people, » he said.

Although the contract was extended for a year, Banff advisers had some concerns.

Banff closer than Invermere

Com. Ted Christensen asked if Banff didn’t go there, who would come to the rescue of the people?

Adamo said the blame could lie with Invermere because most of the highway is in British Columbia – but Banff’s resources are closer.

The Town of Banff will work with Emergency Management British Columbia (EMBC) prior to the end of the Parks Canada contract to negotiate how to continue to serve this area. But things will be different.

EMBC will not pay for medical emergencies, hazardous materials, or fires. If someone needs to be extracted, they will make up for it, Adamo explained. He said their rate of pay is also minimal and will not cover the costs of providing the emergency service.

“There is a big gap between what they will compensate for and what we normally responded to in an emergency,” Adamo said.

With feedback from ambulance emergency crews, Adamo said paramedics always appreciate having a big red truck out there with extra staff and presence to keep everyone on the sidelines safe. road. And, sometimes, fire departments act as first responders when ambulances can’t get to the scene of an accident fast enough.

“I worry about the people on this highway”

A deal with EMBC would mean it’s no longer remunerated.

« I’m worried about the people on this highway at the end of this contract, » the adviser said. says Chip Oliver. « I think it’s a busy highway and it’s a shame that’s changing, really a shame. »

Mayor Corrie DiManno said she’s relieved that Parks Canada is completing the contract, as it gives the city time to review and plan its next steps.

These discussions will return to Banff Town Council in the new year.

« There’s a real sense of moral obligation to try to do our best to respond to incidents on this section of freeway, » DiManno said. « These could be Banff visitors, these could be Banff residents. That’s where that moral sense of obligation comes from. »


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