A South Okanagan mountain community has voted to enhanced its fire protection.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen announced Sunday that residents and property owners in the Apex area voted in favour of creating a taxpayer-supported fire service and borrowing up to $3-million for infrastructure and equipment for the fire department.
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The local regional district area director Subrina Monteith said she is “very pleased” for the Apex community that the referendum passed.
The South Okanagan mountain area currently receives fire protection from Apex Fire Brigade, a nonprofit group that relies on donations to purchase equipment.
The passing of the referendum will allow the nonprofit fire brigade to be morphed into a taxpayer-supported fire department.
Monteith said the change will mean firefighters have the proper equipment, access to training, and mutual aid from other fire services.
The new tax-payer supported fire department will also be able to provide a guaranteed service which is expected to help residents secure fire insurance.
“Having an established fire department will give insurance companies comfort in providing insurance to those homes,” Monteith said.
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Ultimately, Monteith expects the change will help Apex to grow as buying property there will become a safer investment.
“It allows property owners access to a mortgage where they might not have a mortgage if they don’t have fire insurance,” Monteith said.
The loan of up to $3-million is earmarked for buying equipment and purchasing land to build a fire hall.
“I feel like the Apex Fire Brigade has worked really hard to get to this point. They’ve proven that they have a volunteer base, they’ve proven that they are able to train…[and] they got a fire truck donated to them,” said Monteith.
“They’ve been working really hard towards this result so I’m very pleased the community also supports their efforts.”
Monteith said residents and property owners will not start paying additional taxes to support the fire department until 2022.
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