North Fork residents could face a steep bump in home insurance unless more volunteers swell the ranks at the George Evans fire hall. The fire hall “is at risk of closing,” according to a letter Grand Forks Fire/Rescue mailed to 302 area homes last month, according to Dep. Chief Rich Piché.
Dep. Fire Chief Stephane Dionne said the fire hall at 1331 Granby Rd. currently has six volunteers on its roster. It needs 15 in order to satisfy minimum protection levels set by the Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS), which provides statistical fire data to the Canadian Fire Insurance Grading Index.
Dionne said he’d hoped to see around 10 prospects at the fire hall’s recruitment drive on Tuesday evening, May 11. One man showed up.
Fire service is already thin across the North Fork, putting the heavily forested area at greater risk of wildfires. With most volunteers now working in Grand Forks, Dionne said it could take up to 40 minutes for the department to respond to daytime emergencies on the further reaches of Granby Road.
FUS vice president Michael Currie said fire halls with less than 10 active members could be downgraded to “unprotected” status, which could cost local policyholders between 50 and 70 per cent in discounts to their home insurance premiums.
“We’re always trying to incentivize best practices when it comes to fire protection, he said, adding that the FUS works with struggling fire halls.
“But there has to be some sort of consequence when fire service drops below a certain point.”
It now falls on the department to come up with a way to keep the fire hall open.
“It’s back to the drawing board for us, because it makes no sense to close the fire hall,” Dionne said.
Dionne said he would sit down with Piché and Fire Chief George Seigler to discuss a new recruitment strategy this week.