Blaze reignites debate over fire protection
By Robert Lynch
March 14, 2011, Paradise, N.L. - All is not well in Paradise, at least not when it comes to fire protection.
By Robert Lynch
A structure fire on Feb. 16 that gutted a $750,000 home has rekindled a years-old debate among municipal decision makers and residents over fire protection in the town of 12,584.
The issue is whether Paradise should have its own fire department or continue to pay the St. John’s Regional Fire Service to provide suppression services.
According to the 2006 census Paradise was the fastest-growing town in Atlantic Canada. Paraside is on the Avalon Peninsula and is a part of the St. John's Metropolitan Area. In the early 1990s, Paradise amalgamated with the the Town of St. Thomas, to the north west. Paradise and St. Thomas, along with three other communiites, now make up the so-called super town of Paradise. This super town is growing in all directions and into many un-serviced areas. The municipality does not have water or sewer services in these new areas.
Just after 10 p.m. on Feb. 16, St. John’s Regional got a call for an alarm inside the house at 188 Summit Dr. St. John’s Regional responded to the call. Mike Dwyer, director of regional fire services with St. John’s Regional, said the response times were 16 minutes for St. John’s Regional’s station in nearby Mount Pearl and 17 minutes for St. John’s Kenmount Road station. Dwyer said road and weather conditions contributed to the lengthy response times but that the times were reasonable for the distance.
Summit Drive does not have hydrants or a water supply. In June 2010 a home on the other side of Summit Drive burned to the ground. The nearest hydrant is more than 1.5 kilometres away. In both incidents, water was shuttled to the scene repeatedly; without a continuous water source firefighters were forced to exit the structures and allow them to burn.
Rodney Cumby, Paradise’s chief administrative officer, explained that St. John’s Regional also provides backup services for a fee to some smaller towns in that have volunteer fire departments. He noted that talk in the community about a lack of fire protection is inaccurate.
“So,” says Cumby, “while it is true that there is no fire station located in Paradise, it is incorrect to say there is no fire protection provided. In fact, in many areas of Paradise, response times are as good as they are in St. John’s or Mount Pearl.”
In an interview with the local CTV affiliate, resident Stu Reid said “There is no water and sewer and there are no fire hydrants where he is building and with all this development there should be fire hydrants along the street and that its a shame that a town like Paradise doesn’t have its own fire station”
I asked Rodney Cumby to nail down who says there is no fire protection n the town and he said "Some people who are misinformed or fear mongering sometime claim that there is no Fire Protection"
Conception Bay South is Paradise’s neighbor to the west; it has recently committed to upgrading emergency services, including joint study on the feasibility of having fire and emergency services for both communities.
Once this study is complete, Paradise will determine what is best for its residents. The options are:
• Regionalize with Conception Bay South.
• Become a full member of the St. John’s Regional Fire Service committee and have a fire station built in Paradise.
• Create a volunteer or composite fire department.
• Continue to purchase fire and emergency services from St. John’s Regional Fire Department.
Cumby said Paradise will review the options and determine the best fit for the town while considering the needs of the rural and urban areas, residents, businesses and future growth.
St. John’s Regional’s Mike Dwyer said the department has been providing all information requested by Paradise to help its decision makers with this issue.
In a press release, Newfoundland and Labrador Fire and Emergency Services said it will help to fund a study to determine the options available to Paradise.