Little Athapap cottagers debate fire proposal

Cottagers from Bakers Narrows were divided over a proposal to help secure fire protection for their area.

Over a dozen cottage owners sat in the Bakers Narrows grader shed for the Little Athapap Cottage Owners Association spring meeting June 19. While other items were on the agenda, the majority of the discussion was around fire protection provided by the Creighton Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD).

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After a heated debate featuring motions brought forward, tabled and brought forward again, the association decided to use more than $13,000 in reserve funds to help cover any costs related to firefighting for the summer.

Right now, CVFD will come to assist cottage owners if they are available but charge a fee to help fight any fires. While insurance normally covers those costs, if an owner has limited or no coverage and refuses to pay, the department could stop offering assistance.

Dave Kennedy from the North of 54 Cottage Owners Association presented a proposal to the members to help cover the area in case the CVFD fights a fire but is not paid.

He asked Little Athapap to pay $20 per cottage to create a fund that will help cover the CVFD’s costs in the event someone is unwilling or unable to pay after a fire. If the fund is used, the cottage owners association plans on placing a lien against the owner’s property if they refuse to pay.

“My concern is we’re putting the fire department in the position of being bill collectors,” Kennedy said during the discussion.

“I think they will handle their bill collecting duties one way and say, ‘We’re not going to do this again.’ The sole purpose of $20 a house is to prevent that and we will do whatever we can to hold the person responsible.”

The question of firefighting in cottage country became prominent after a fire destroyed a cottage in Little Athapap last fall. A call multiplier system was able to notify enough people to contain the fire for the first hour before CVFD arrived over an hour later to contain and extinguish the fire.

The first part of the meeting belonged to Terry Hill, who presented the treasurer’s report and provided a refresher course on how the call multiplier system works.

Other cottage associations in the area decided to add on the $20 to help cover the costs, but the question was complicated for Little Athapap members. They questioned the authority of the cottage owners association to place a lien on any property and wanted stronger guarantees from CVFD.

“There are, as we know, legal procedures available to parties to pursue claims,” said Ron Black, who was opposed to the measure.

“Those are available to either party and shouldn’t have to involve third parties, so I would question the whole exercise.”

Jane Robillard, the president of the Little Athapap Cottage Owners Association, tried to keep order during the meeting.

“All we’re saying is that we’re in agreement and we’ll get more information - but right now is the hot season, when there’s going to be fires and we need to deal with this,” she said after the motion was tabled to ask for more information.”

“We can just keep putting it off or it’s going to become like the lagoon thing that we talked about for 10 God damn years.”

Eventually the proposal to cover any fire costs from the reserve fund was put to a vote, which passed with wide but non-unanimous support.

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