Fire society agrees on fire hall, but debates location

May 11, 2017

Fires, especially forest fires, are a real threat on B.C.’s Gulf Islands, because they are filled with beautiful Douglas firs and a variety of other tree species. If a fire starts burning out of control, it is not as simple as jumping into your car and driving away from the situation. You have to leave the small island to survive and ferries or helicopters are often not there for the islander to board.

So deciding issues around how fire fighters will be available to the islands, as well as where the fire halls are located, is perhaps more important than in other places:

Gulf Islands Driftwood — Penders Edition

March 22, 2000

Fire society agrees on fire hall, but debates location

by Tanya Lester

An estimated 220 members of the North Pender Island Fire Protection Society gave the okay to proceed with a late summer referendum for a new fire hall building.

The hall will cost taxpayers $950,000 and should provide new fire fighting equipment within two years after paying off an outstanding debt.

Fire society members also returned all but one board representative while voting in a new face at the Pender Elementary gymnasium meeting on Saturday.

Dave Wightman, who chaired the new fire hall planning committee, said he felt it was important to the community to spend under a million dollars on a new facility and equipment.

Wightman — who was elected society president and replaced Dave Jamieson, in a business meeting following the annual general meeting — referred to a referendum held on the issue last year. He believed residents felt the cost, at $1.8 million, was too high.

A reponse to the 1999 referendum results was the resignation of Charlie Boyte, who was fire chief at that time. Boyte had promised to do so if a new fire hall was not forthcoming. Jamieson and Wightman stressed that a new fire hall must be built.

“We desperately need a new fire hall and we have to have a facility for the equipment,” Jamieson said.

As the meeting wore on, the condition of Fire Hall #1 was described more bluntly as “rotting” and, if things continue without intervention, “equipment will be sitting outside under tarps and deteriorating.”

Wightman proposed a three-bay, 6,000-square-foot fire hall (which one audience member dubbed “a palace”) beside the RCMP detachment.

Wightman opted for the Fire Hall #1 site over the #2 site at Magic Lake because Fire Hall #1 would  in the middle of the island and will accordingly serve its north residents better.

He said the project would cost $750,000 in money borrowed from the Capital Regional District (CRD).

Wightman also recommended borrowing another $100,000 to pay off a debt for an Engine 27 pumper used by the volunteer fire department.

Another $100,000 would be obtained to establish a capital contingency fund, which would avoid the predicament of fire society failing to have funds to maintain buildings and buy needed equipment in the future.

Wightman explained the fund would accumulate interest which would total at least $220,000 in five years. This could be used for new and replacement fire fighting vehicles. He predicted a new vehicle could be acquired within two years.

Later in the meeting, Wightman put forward a motion to amend fire society bylaws in order to establish a capital contingency fund. This won a two-thirds membership majority vote, as did Wightman’s motion to proceed with his planning committee proposal. No one voted against either motion.

To pay off the loan, Wightman suggested a parcel tax in which each property owner would pay $55 per year for 15 years or, providing the CRD would permit it, a one-time lump sum of $450 with a savings of $370 for each property owner choosing this option.

Throughout the meeting, members spoke for and against aspects of the proposal.

Resident Jim Petrie read a letter he had submitted to the planning committee in which he outlined his preference to have the new fire hall built at the present side of the Magic Lake hall.

Petrie’s position is that population is concentrated in the southern part of North Pender, with most of the firefighters living in that area, so the new fire hall should be located there.

He also argues that because 60 per cent of the population lives near Magic Lake, it will be these residents who pay most of the costs for the referendum and taxes for the new fire hall.

Petrie said a fire underwriters survey done by Robert Nelson and available in the library supports his position.

Ian Elliott, who is a first responder member of the firefighters, cautioned against this site as he said the ground in the Fire Hall #2 area could end up like “chocolate pudding” if any excavation was done. This would make it difficult to build on.

One resident spoke in support of each property owner paying the $450 outright rather than be taxed over a 15-year period.

Boyte suggested the fire society “must do away with money issues” and said an option would be to raise thee money through community efforts such as fundraisers for the Community Hall rather than by increasing taxes.

Michael Van Bakel, a firefighter and an architect who has done some work on the new fire hall with the society, put forward the idea of each person contributing at least $10 more than the proposed tax contribution. That way a new fire vehicle could be purchased sooner than two years from now.

Current fire chief Lawrence Pitt indicated in his report that the fire society needs two initial response vehicles that carry pressed air foam, which he described as having the “magic” quality of producing 10 times the volume of water now carried by North Pender’s two pumpers.

One response vehicle would cost $200,000, said Pitt.

Pitt also said he would like an increase in fire fighter membership from 26 to 30, with 15 volunteering at each of the two fire halls in order to satisfy the underwriters.

After recognizing the contribution made by retiring fire society treasurer Sharon Stenson, Jamieson announced the everyone else on the current board, who were appointed by him after the previous board quit following the last referendum, were standing for election.

Nominated from the floor were Boyte, Dr. Don Williams and Gary Steeves. Following ballot voting for six board positions, Joe Gill was replaced by Williams. Others elected were Wightman, Neville Avison, Anna Knister, Rick McKean, and Richard Watson for a three-year term. Jamieson continues his term for two years, having been elected last year. Joan Harper is the board’s CRD representative.

— END–

Tanya works as a psychic who specializes in tea leaf reading and tarot. She is also a reiki master and a housesitter. For more information go to her web site at or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. Her email is  and her cell phone number or text is 250-538-0086.

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader and Friends I Never Knew who can be purchased from the author or from as well as Dreams and Tricksters and Women Rights/Writes. These books are all available in some libraries.

To read more posts on this blog of a variety of stories and subjects go to or




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