Emergency services bylaw needs updating: chief

Whitehorse firefighters are asking city council to give them the written authority to do work they've been performing for years. Fire Chief Kevin Lyslo spoke to council on Monday.

Whitehorse firefighters are asking city council to give them the written authority to do work they’ve been performing for years.

Fire Chief Kevin Lyslo spoke to council on Monday. He wants the city’s emergency services bylaw be updated to specifically include “technical rescues.”

Those include rescues in water, in confined spaces, using ropes, or on trails. It’s work the fire department has been doing for years, with extensive training, but a recent review of the bylaw revealed it’s not explicitly listed as being allowed.

“In the absence of a written mandate, the fire department could be seen as conducting these rescues illegally, potentially putting administration and council at considerable legal and financial risk,” Lyslo said during his report to council.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Lyslo said the department is working on a complete review of the bylaw, which was written in 2000. Adding technical rescues was one of the first things to come up.

No one has ever actually accused the department of performing the rescues illegally, he said.

“I’d only be speculating if I tried to ascertain why this was not brought forward a number of years ago. I’ve been with the department for almost 22 years now, and for most of my career we have been performing these types of technical rescues.”

Adding technical rescues to the bylaw would be helpful if anyone were to get hurt during a rescue, the chief said.

“(Without it) it would just become a longer process. We would have to find other ways to show that we’re actually allowed to be out there doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Council will vote on amending the bylaw at its next meeting June 13.

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