Woodlands County is exploring its options when it comes to continuing to provide fire services to county residents.
The County is still working on negotiating a new cost-share agreement with the Town of Whitecourt, which includes a new fire agreement.
Woodlands County Administration said at County Council this week that they had sent a draft copy of a revised fire agreement to the Town prior to the August 31st deadline. Administration then said they have yet to hear back from the town on the agreement, which then prompted discussion from councilors.
Council noted their main concern is having residents in the Whitecourt areas of the County being caught without access to fire services should an agreement not be put in place. Many councilors were in agreement that the County needed to keep fire services a priority and believe it prudent to plan ahead and prepare for potentially creating a department to serve in the Whitecourt divisions.
As a proactive approach, while they wait to hear back from Whitecourt, Woodlands County Mayor John Burrows says they are now looking into what it would take to create another county fire department in case a new agreement can’t be reached by the end of the year.
Mayor Burrows said they will look into costs, availability, personnel, and equipment needed to establish a new fire department. Burrows also stressed that this is just a preliminary process in the event that a new agreement is not made.
Woodlands County does already operate four fire departments in the hamlets of Blue Ridge, Goose Lake, Fort Assiniboine, and Anselmo, so the process of establishing a department is not new.
To start the planning process, Council gave Administration permission to advertise for volunteer firefighters to operate in Woodlands County in the Whitecourt area.