The Cowichan Valley Fire Department Regional Mutual Aid Agreement will better protect communities throughout the region.

Fire Rescue Services Coordinator Jason deJong said there were a number of mutual aid agreements protecting some communities and others were missing.

Most departments in the CVRD already have mutual aid agreements and deJong said having one agreement in place, among fire departments, will ensure all communities and residents are protected.

“All the agreements were one-offs, so one department would work or have an agreement with their neighbouring department and, quite often, all the agreements were quite old, not modern, and outside of the legal parameters,” said deJong. “First off, it covers off modern legal language to allow fire departments to work together and since they’re doing that anyways we might as well just have one.”

Firefighting is a brotherhood, departments throughout the region have been assisting each other in putting out fires for a long time and deJong said this agreement means all 17 fire departments will have back-up if they’re called on for assistance.

“There’s a lot to the agreement and there are allowances (in the agreement) that the responding or requested department does not have to go,” said deJong. “They have to ensure that their home district is still protected, but you can do that by calling in another fire department to cover as well. That’s the other benefit of this, it’s not just responding to the fire.”

deJong explained, “It also provides mutual aid assistance to cover off another fire department’s district if they’re helping someone else.”

He added, “That’s what happened at Maple Mountain where obviously all the closest fire departments responded, but it went all the way up to North Oyster and down to the Malahat, where they were backfilling their neighbours, as well.”

“This is an important agreement for residents of the CVRD, who can rest assured that emergency response resources are not limited to those in their own backyard,” said Aaron Stone, Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. “Thanks to everyone from the many local governments and improvement districts in the region who worked together on this agreement, and all the volunteer firefighters whose continued service makes it possible.”

This agreement includes six fire departments in the CVRD, four in North Cowichan, and single departments in Duncan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, and improvement districts in Mill Bay, Cowichan Bay, Shawnigan, and Thetis Island.