By: Korie Marshall

The Regional District of Fraser Fort George is applying for a crown land tenure near Valemount for a new communications link for the Volunteer Fire Department.

The Prince George Fire Operations Communication Centre currently uses a leased mountain top site at Mount Holiday, about 30 kilometers east of McBride, to communicate with the McBride and Valemount Volunteer Fire Departments. The current site on Mount Holiday is only accessible by helicopter.

The Regional District of Fraser Fort George, who owns and maintains the communication network for fire and rescue agencies within the district (funded by the 9-1-1 Emergency Response Service), is applying for a land tenure about 3.5 kilometers north east of the Village of Valemount, to construct a communications tower and shelter.

In a report to the Board, Murray Scott, Public Saftey Coordinator for the Regional District, says relocating the radio repeater from the Valemount Fire Hall to the new site would improve radio coverage for firefighters in the valley. He says it would also allow for easier access and reduce maintenance costs.

David Ruby, Fire Chief for McBride, says McBride uses the same communications trunk as Valemount, and the new tower, if approved, will provide much better communications for the McBride Volunteer Fire Department.

Rick Lalonde, Fire Chief for Valemount, says the new tower wouldn’t help with reception outside of the valley floor, like in Red Pass and Mount Robson, for example, but it will get rid of some dead spots in the service area. He says the fire department will sometimes piggy-back off Highways channels and forestry repeaters, each of which, along with CN and the RCMP, have their own separate communications systems. Improving that area would be such a huge cost with such limited use, it’s not likely to happen.

Lalonde says the McBride department has had really poor reception in the valley for years, once out of line-of-sight of their base. This new communication site would be one piece of some of the ongoing upgrades to improve reception for McBride.