When an emergency response is needed in Lake Country, the Lake Country Fire Department (LCFD) is quick to be on the scene whether it is a fire in a heavily populated or remote area of the community, a land slide, a motor vehicle accident, a health emergency, or an industrial incident.

Despite using an on-call fire crew, one of the factors that contribute to their quick response is the close proximity of the local fire halls to the residents, businesses and visitors that call 911 to summon their assistance. Fire insurance underwriters consider this factor as well in determining the cost of insurance. Response time in the community is what it is all about. Insurance brokers estimate that the cost of insurance for homeowners goes up between two and threefold for homes outside of the range of 8 km to the nearest fire hall. This can turn an $800 a year insurance bill into a $2,400 a year bill for homeowners. Insurance companies apply the increased rate to homes on both agricultural and non-agricultural properties equally.

When a fire department looks for a new fire hall and equipment storage site, there are a lot of factors to consider; and land designation is sometimes a challenge when all other factors point to an optimal site for a fire station.

In 2008 the District of Lake Country purchased some property at 11063 Okanagan Centre Rd. E. (fronted on three sides by roadways within the transition zone between urban and agricultural development) with the long term goal of a future fire hall site central to the community. The challenge with this particular property was that it was within the Agricultural Land Reserve. The District must balance a commitment to protect agriculture, a need to be cost effective and the overriding need to enhance public safety. The District made an application for a non-farm use to the ALC which was initially turned down. After the Agricultural Land Commissions initial response, staff did an in depth analysis of other available sites in the community, along with a review of other ALC approvals for non-farm use requests in communities similar to Lake Country that are predominantly agricultural based.

The District submitted a second application to the ALC citing the rationale that fire halls are used by the broad community including many agricultural users. This time the response from the ALC was positive although it imposed various conditions to be met before approval of the non-farm use on the proposed site would be accepted. Over time the District has moved towards meeting the ALC conditions including improved drainage to other agricultural properties in the community and an agrologist report showing the agricultural benefits of improvements made within the Lodge Road upgrade project last year.

"As much as I'd love to see it now, there are no immediate plans to build a new fire hall," said Fire Chief Steve Windsor. "When a referendum to borrow money for the construction of a new fire hall was taken to the public some years ago, it failed. The money for the land was borrowed from the capital works reserve and payments were made every year from 2008 2013 to repay the total amount borrowed. The payments came from the fire department budget which is funded through taxation by residents within the fire service area including a part of Kelowna serviced by LCFD. The current Fire Administration building and Winfield Station ,71 on Okanagan Centre Road is an aging facility and a new hall will eventually have to be constructed so we can keep serving the community in the best way possible."