By Camille Aubin
[email protected] 

The Radium Hot Springs fire department proposed an extension of service into Kootenay National Park at the last Radium council meeting on April 14, which councillors have unanimously approved.

Radium firefighters will cover more ground with the extension of fire apparatus service to the Highway 93 Settlers Road intersection and with the extension of first responder medical services to Vermillion Crossing. Until now the border point for the Radium fire department on Highway 93 has been the Kootenay lookout viewpoint.

“This all came about trying to be the good guys and assist. We are thinking ahead in terms of what may happen with the diversion, with the amount of traffic going through and the numbers of incidents that could result from that,” said Radium fire chief Dave Dixon during the last council meeting of Radium Hot Springs.

A month-long extended TransCanada closure requiring motorists to take Highways 93 and 95 as an alternative route began on April 12 and will extend through May 14. As a result of this detour, the highway between Radium and Banff will become much busier than usual.

“This extension of service will be limited to the duration of the Kicking Horse Canyon project and is intended to support ambulance and auto extrication actions, especially in light of expected traffic volumes and increased likelihood of motor vehicle accidents,” explained Radium chief administrative officer Mark Read.

The fire department will limit the number of people heading on to the scene at the extended border if there are two emergency vehicles that need to be deployed. “We want to make sure that we have people on call either at the hall or definitely at home before we leave in case there is a second incident,” said Dixon. 

Radium mayor Clara Reinhardt clarified that Radium needs to have its contingent to cover the village’s needs first. “There has to be a minimum number going, and if we don’t have the resources, we don’t go.” The membership of Radium fire department is 17 volunteers.

This additional tax service comes at the expense of the residents of the Village of Radium Hot Springs. “This is a Good Samaritan act on our behalf, extending services at our cost to help protect individuals who are in trouble in the park,” said Read.

The budget is likely to expand because of any incidents related to the closure of Trans Canada. “I don’t think it’s going to be avoidable. It’s just a matter of physics and the volume of traffic and human nature. We are likely to see more activity generally,” explained Read.

Reinhardt concluded the discussion by thanking the first responders of the Village of Radium Hot Springs fire department for being so altruistic.

Further discussion concerned the verification of the fire department traffic management of operating protocols.

The Fire Department has members trained in a specific emergency scene traffic management course, which they retake annually. It allows them to direct traffic at emergency scenes to protect first responders (police, ambulance, firefighter, and other people involved). Under WorkSafeBC guidelines, the fire department is not allowed to do so for more than two hours. After that period of time, it is up to the highway maintenant contractor to provide flagging services. “We have to put more emphasis on the highway maintenance contractors to ensure that flaggers are available and on route, especially now if we’re going into the park. We’re going with the minimum size of the crew, and we won’t have people available to do so,” explained Dixon. 

It is the responsibility of Parks Canada to provide flaggers within the park. “They (Parks Canada) seem to be under the assumption that we will stay on scene provide traffic management as long as required and we’ve been identifying that issue for over a year now trying to get a commitment for Parks Canada to utilize their conservation services or officers to attend scenes, to commit to us that there’s going to be flaggers available. 

“We need to make it clear to Parks Canada under WorkSafeBC regulations. This is what we can provide and this is all we will provide so you need to be prepared to step in and fill our shoes after that two hour period and certainly in cases of high-risk traffic management situations, where we are not certified qualified trade or legally able to provide that service,” expressed Read.

This discussion was meant to inform the council of WorkSafeBC requirements and obtain support for further discussion between the staff of Radium and Parks Canada.