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June 11, 2015 - I’m writing in the air between Calgary and Toronto, having left Penticton Wednesday afternoon, which means I’m missing the Fire Chiefs Association of BC theme/fun night – Disco Inferno. Oh darn!

Watching the map on the seatback screen in the emergency row with the extra leg room, Fort Nelson, B.C., caught my attention. It’s three hours north of Fort St. John, I was told by the chief and deputy at lunch on Wednesday. That’s almost in Yukon. Two days ago, after having driven about 90 minutes south, I was a stone’s throw from the American border, near Osoyoos.

The point? In Nova Scotia or P.E.I. it’s easy to get to the provincial chiefs conferences. Not so much in the central, Prairie and western provinces, but the turn out in Penticton was the best ever with 600 delegates, which speaks volumes about the the association’s expanding role.

I talked to FCABC President Tim Pley Wednesday afternoon for 15 minutes between education seminars. The association’s strategic plan – developed over the last six months – was to be discussed in business sessions later in the day. Essentially the FCABC aims to be the lead advocate for fire safety in British Columbia.

Similar to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, the BC group is positioning itself to better serve its members and to strengthen its advocacy role by increasing organizational capacity.

Further, the FCABC sets out in the plan a couple of dozen initiatives that will enhance its role as the recognized voice of the fire service in BC to the public, the provincial government and other stakeholders.

There’s a SWOT analysis, an action plan, pillars – organizational capacity, advocacy, and member services; there are to-do lists that include working with the training officers association, supporting the province in developing and adopting a replacement for the Fire Services Act, pursuing the establishment of a fire-services advisory committee and supporting the Office of the Fire Commissioner in the creation of a provincial fire department framework for use in emergencies.

Timelines are listed.

The document is impressive – the culmination of some deep thinking about the association’s evolution and the expanding needs of chief officers. It’s crucial that provincial chiefs associations undertake these exercises. We know from experience that governments don’t hear pleas for change unless there is empirical evidence about fire fatalities or training and equipment needs. To do this, top-notch organizational capacity is critical; for career chiefs, member services are more important than ever in challenging labour-relations environments.

A lot of work has been done. There’s lots more to do.

My BlackBerry’s low-battery light is flashing, my MacBook Pro is almost out of juice, and I’m 30,000 feet over Brandon, Man., having visions of certain Fire Fighting in Canada columnists on the dance floor in Penticton while the band belts out Bee Gees greatest hits.

Time to call it a night.

June 11, 2015
By Laura King


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