By Justin Seward
Cypress County and Alberta Environment and Parks reached a new fire services agreement for the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park recently.
This agreement was updated for the first time since 1985 and the process began in March 2019 between the County and Parks’ administration.
“Basically, it was decided that we needed to replace the outdated agreement that goes all the way back to 1985,” said Jeffrey Dowling, the county’s director of municipal services.
“So then moving forward, the county and Alberta Environment and Parks started working on a draft agreement and that started in September of 2019. And fast forward to November 9 of 2021, we were finally able to execute the new agreement between Cypress County and Cypress Hills Provincial Park and Alberta Environment and Parks.”
The new fire services agreement will be for four years and it was important for both sides to maintain a strong relationship and maintain fire and rescue services in the Elkwater townsite and the provincial park boundary.
“But in order to have a formal agreement in place, it needed to specify what are the services the county would provide,” said Dowling.
The agreement makes multiple references to the Fire Services Bylaw and Fire Services Level of Service Policy.
The County will be able to provide fire suppression for structure fires for both in the Elkwater townsite and for RVs in the various campgrounds.
The agreement also addresses co-response with Alberta Health Services’ EMS to attend to patients and provides for other rescue operations such as technical rope rescue for evacuees out of a coulee or slope and water rescue.
Dowling said for example if there was a fire in the forested area inside the park boundary, that’s the responsibility of Alberta Environment and Parks as well as Agriculture and Forestry.
The agreement also provides mutual aid to the park when incident occur outside the roles the county would have.
“We are committed to ensuring emergency services are readily available when needed in Alberta’s parks,” said AEP in a statement.
“ Alberta Environment and Parks has long had a positive and collaborative working relationship with Cypress County. We both care deeply about safety and share a common interest in maximizing the recreation, tourism and conservation potential of Cypress Hills Provincial Park”
Conservation Officers will continue to lead emergency management in the park, while volunteers from the Elkwater Fire Department continuing to serve the park and surrounding area.