In last week’s front page story (Volunteer fire fighters to be awarded with small stipend) there was some misunderstanding as to what kind of compensation the firefighters received.
What was not made clear at the meeting and in the article is that the volunteer firefighters do not currently receive a stipend and the numbers quoted as $8,500 for training and $6,500 for fire-related calls were from a proposal put forth by the Sooke Firefighters Association to the District of Sooke.
“It was a projection,” said Ben Temple of the SFFA, “we would like to see compensation like this.”
He said council had rejected that proposal. That is when council came up with the proposal to put $25,000 into the 2014 budget for honorariums for volunteer firefighters.
The volunteer firefighters received $116,784 in 2013 which includes remuneration for duty officers ($24,786) first response duty crews($24,786) and relief workers wages/remuneration ($15,606).
Duty officers are paid when there are no career firefighters on duty, for the hours between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m.
“This is in order to guarantee a response in the middle of the night,” said Temple. He explained that they work on four-day shifts and get compensated for being available. Volunteer firefighters are not paid when they respond to a call out.
“We also have a two-man duty crew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for calls that are not a major emergency,” said Temple. “Those are paid shifts, those individuals are working to guarantee a minimum level of staffing.”
Support service volunteers do not attack fires but they do provide some essential services to the fire crews.
“They do things that need to be done,” explained Temple.
Acting Mayor Rick Kasper stated the remuneration for relief worker wages would rise to $30,000 in 2014. The five-year financial plan shows this figure to rise to $60,778 by 2018.
Volunteer firefighters receive training and basic uniforms at no cost to themselves. They are not compensated for items such as gas, lost wages or other out of pocket expenses.
“The annual contract payment to the Volunteer Firefighters Association has gone from $30,000 Dec 31, 2011 to $37,038. Jan 1, 2014, and volunteer firefighters control those funds,” stated Kasper via email. “A base amount of $500 will be available for any volunteer firefighter who attends 66 hrs of training which includes attending practices and other hands on learning events starting this year.”