It might have been a wet July, but when it comes to wildfires, we aren’t out of the woods just yet.
At their August 13 meeting, Smithers council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of a 2018 Dutchmen Aspen Trail trailer from Sullivan Motor Products (SMP).
The vehicle will be used as a mobile response unit for Bulkley Emergency Social Services (BESS) which serves the communities of Smithers and Telkwa.
The BESS also provides support to the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) in emergency situations, such as during the 2018 wildfires in the Burns Lake area.
As BESS director Matt Herzog explained to council, one of the most crucial needs he identified in a recent assessment was a mobile response unit for those exact kinds of scenarios where the team is called into a remote area in the district.
Herzog explained to council the benefits of this are two-fold: on top of providing logistical support to the areas, the trailer can also act as a lodging centre for BESS volunteers in a remote situation where commercial accommodations are not available.
“In 2018 during the wildfires there was nowhere for our volunteers to stay in Burns Lake but it was desperately needed that we send volunteers … so this trailer will allow us to be able to deploy in both our communities and the district.”
At its Aug. 13 council meeting the Village of Telkwa also approved the purchase.
“It made total sense to us in that they don’t really have an office to do things,” said Telkwa mayor Brad Layton. They don’t really have anything portable. It was explained to us last year when they were down in Burns Lake, the hotels were full, there was no place for them to sleep and that.”
Telkwa and Smithers will split the purchase of the trailer through a 50/50 cost-sharing agreement.
As part of that agreement, the Town of Smithers will make the initial purchase and insure the trailer, with the Village of Telkwa reimbursing 50 per cent of the total costs.
Layton said Telkwa council has worked ongoing support of BESS into its annual operating budget, which will allow the trailer to become part of the asset management regime for future replacement.
Fuel, registration maintenance and repair costs will be split between the two municipalities.
The funds to purchase the trailer come from the The Union of B.C. Municipalities’ (UBCM) 2018 Community Emergency Preparedness Fund’s Emergency Social Services Grant, which provides $50,000 in funds for the purchase.
Herzog said the communication between Telkwa and Smithers has been really good throughout the entire process as well.
In addition to the above uses, the trailer will also be used to store reception and group lodging forms and kits, increasing their accessibility to the team.
The purchase is also being subsidized by a $1,000 donation from SMP to the town, as well as a 20 to 30 per cent discount on the purchase.
“It’s great to hear our volunteer force is so strong,” noted Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach before the vote.
The BESS currently has more than 40 volunteers.
With files from Thom Barker