A concerning letter from members of the department has prompted the Okanagan Indian Band to conduct an independent review of its fire department.
The letter from fire department members outlines possible deficiencies within the department.
“The OKIB administration, which oversees the fire department, takes all allegations of deficiencies very seriously,” said the band in a news release.
The administration immediately secured an external expert advisor who has no ties to the band to conduct its independent review.
Additionally, OKIB immediately hired an experienced firefighter to oversee the OKIB Fire Department as acting fire chief, temporarily replacing the existing fire chief who is on administrative leave.
“The review will help identify safety issues, training needs, and resource gaps,” said the band. “While this review is being carried out, OKIB’s administration has placed its two senior firefighters on administrative leave to ensure a fair and transparent process.”
Currently, the OKIB Fire Department has up to two dozen volunteers.
“OKIB is confident that it can address local emergencies, either with existing staff or with its partnership with neighbouring agencies, if and when needed,” said OKIB, adding many First Nations fire departments across Canada are dealing with similar issues due to significant under-funding.
“The lack of funding for many First Nations fire departments results in a dire need of equipment, essential training, and related support,” said the band. “Despite the lack of funding, the OKIB commits a substantial amount of its own resources to ensure that it has an operational volunteer fire department.”
OKIB administration will not comment further on the matter until the review is completed.