With a fire servicing agreement between Central Saanich and the Tsartlip First Nation up for renewal this month, the idea of fire training for both the Tsartlip and Tsawout communities was raised.
Central Saanich District Councillor Zeb King spoke with the Tsartlip Band Council recently to discuss his idea of first responder training for the local indigenous communities. The training would be provided by Central Saanich.
“What this would do is add a clause to the agreement that the Central Saanich Fire Department or municipality would offer to train Tsartlip or First Nations people,” said King.
He added he sees the training as a benefit to both communities.
“I think the skills that can be learned are part of our community if they’re held in Tsartlip as well, and it will benefit the First Nations community but also the non-first nations community,” he said.
Although not finalized, the idea was looked upon favourably by Tsartlip.
“If you don’t have trained individuals, it doesn’t matter in which community you’re in … you’re going to have loss of life, you’re going to have loss of homes, facilities …” said Paul Sam, Tsartlip band councillor.
Sam said they’re going to take advantage of the opportunity.
He’s on the emergency preparedness team in Central Saanich, which works together with both Tsartlip and Tsawout First Nations.
“We’re always talking about training in our meetings. And we have plans in place where we’re going to have a number of things in place … in case of an emergency,” said Sam.
Currently, he said Tsartlip is submitting names of those interested in fire fighting positions. He said they’re also hoping to get Tsawout on board too.
King said as far as he knows, this would be the first agreement that would include fire training as part of the fire servicing agreement in the region.
Both he and Sam are also unaware of any fire training within First Nations.
Sam said a couple of their members took first responder training through the Canadian Red Cross when those courses were offered around the province but hasn’t heard of anything else.
And that’s continuing, he said, as they will be training specifically the aboriginal community in becoming first responders and then advance to paramedic training if the students wish.
King said he believes there’s an opportunity for skills training people could take to potentially work in a paid fire department or other employment in general.
He brought the idea to Central Saanich this month and the District is still debating its merits.