Residents of Erris have much to crow about.
The Erris Volunteer Fire Association recently achieved certification with the British Columbia Underwriters Association, according to chief Dave Stringfellow.
That means Erris is now a recognized fire department, and as a result the community will reap the benefits of lower insurance rates.
Moreover, the department achieved its new status without benefit of tax dollar support, which is a very rare accomplishment, said Stringfellow.
“We managed through community support, grants and fundraising….I’m sure there are other departments in British Columbia that have done this, but I only know of one,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome. Everyone is very excited.”
The Erris fire association was founded just nine years ago by a group of citizens who recognized the need for fire and medical response in the community, which stretches for 20 kilometers along Princeton Summerland Road.
It has 16 firefighters, as well as some auxiliary members and support volunteers.
In 2014 the organization set its sights on acquiring the training and equipment to take those services to the next level, said Stringfellow.
“We decided to pursue [becoming] a legitimate fire department, recognized by the province as opposed to a community fire suppression brigade.”
At the same time new firefighting training guidelines were issued provincially.
“We sent members of our department to become trainers and then they came back and we were able to train our department internally.”
Also during the past two years the department acquired two engines from Trail and two tenders from Surrey.
“The money to buy those came from fundraising in the community and grants that we applied for.”
Stringfellow has already issued some letters to householders, confirming the department’s designation with the underwriters association.
“People have been ecstatic,” he said. “I heard back from one person who said they saved $600 and somebody else said they are saving $2,500.”
The certification translates into discounts of up to 60 per cent.
“The people who have been supporting the fire department from the beginning, they are even more ecstatic because this is what we’ve all been hoping for.”
A community meeting is being held May 19th to explain the program to residents, but Erris Fire Department members are not resting on their laurels.
Already this year they have acquired a new apparatus, a side-by-side equipped to battle grassfires, and a new truck from Mission has been ordered for next year.
As well, the department is in the middle of doubling the size of its fire hall to include five bays, a training room and an office.
“We are excited about it,” said Stringfellow. “It changes it from a shed that we put our trucks in to a real fire hall.”
While much credit is due the members of the fire department, the group’s progress is really a community win, he added.
“This is a community fire department and the community has built it and the community should be congratulated.”