First Nation Fire Protection Services
Roles and Responsibilities
Who is responsible for providing fire protection services in First Nation communities?
First Nation Band Councils manage fire protection services on reserve. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) provides core capital funding to First Nations on an annual basis. First Nations prioritize their spending to meet the needs of their communities including fire protection services. Fire protection services may include fire fighting, operation and maintenance of fire halls, training, education, and purchase of equipment such as fire trucks.
Who is responsible for restoring houses and other buildings in First Nation communities that are damaged or destroyed by fire?
Most First Nation communities receive an annual capital allocation for housing from the department, which they may use at their discretion for a range of eligible housing needs. This could include the repair or replacement of houses that are damaged by fire.
Should community infrastructure be damaged or destroyed by fire, a First Nation may apply for additional major capital funding from INAC to replace or repair the asset.
INAC Fire Protection Funding
How much funding does INAC provide to First Nations for fire protection services?
First Nation Band Councils manage fire protection services on reserve. INAC provides core capital funding to First Nations on an annual basis. First Nations prioritize their spending to meet the needs of their communities including fire protection services. First Nations may establish their own fire departments, or contract fire protection services from nearby communities.
From 2008-2009 to 2014-2015, INAC provided an average of $27 million for fire protection services, including:
- Equipment and infrastructure (fire trucks, fire halls, etc.)
- Operations & Maintenance of fire protection equipment and assets
- Firefighter training
As part of its support for fire protection, INAC allocates an average of approximately $255,600 annually to the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC) to coordinate a number of fire prevention awareness and training initiatives, including the annual National Aboriginal Firefighters Competition and the National Fire Safety Poster Contest for school-aged children and youth.
How are funding levels determined?
The level of funding is determined by a regionally-based formula, which takes into consideration a number of factors such as the number of buildings on reserve, remoteness, population and local environment.
Use of Funding
Since funding for fire protection services is part of a First Nation’s core capital funding, does this funding always get used for fire protection services or can the First Nation reallocate the funds to address other community priorities?
The department’s fire protection services allocations are intended to be used for fire protection services purposes. However, it is at the Chief and Council’s discretion to manage these funds and they may decide to reallocate their fire protection services funding to other priorities within their communities.
Each fiscal year, First Nations are required to submit their First Nation Infrastructure Investment Plan (FNIIP) which outlines their planned expenditures for community infrastructure requirements, including fire protection services.
Fire Protection on Reserve
Do First Nations have their own fire departments?
Some First Nations have set up their own fire departments on reserve. This is at the discretion of Chief and Council who prioritize their core capital funding accordingly.
Other First Nations have signed formal agreements with neighbouring municipalities for fire protection services. It is the responsibility of the First Nation to make these arrangements, and to pay for the services through their operational budget.
Do First Nations have access to 9-1-1 services?
First Nations may decide to use 9-1-1 services. These are usually put into place as part of an agreement with a local municipality. It is the responsibility of the First Nation to make these arrangements, and to pay for the services through their operational budget.
Does INAC contribute to First Nation firefighter training on reserve?
INAC contributes on average approximately $4.8 million annually for fire protection services training. This funding can also be re-allocated at the discretion of the band council.
INAC also sponsors the annual National Aboriginal Firefighters Competition, which serves to strengthen skills and knowledge through technical seminars and a variety of training exercises.
What is INAC doing to improve fire protection services on reserves?
INAC is involved in the training, prevention, and education components of fire protection services. For example, INAC promotes awareness through the annual National Fire Safety Poster Contest for school-aged children and youth, sponsors training both directly and indirectly through the annual National Aboriginal Firefighters Competition, funds the acquisition and construction of fire prevention infrastructure, and provides funding for operation and maintenance of infrastructure.
INAC has invested on average (from 2008-2009 to 2014-2015) approximately $27 million annually for the operation and maintenance of fire halls and other fire protection services, firefighter training, and purchasing fire protection equipment such as fire trucks.
What is the First Nations Fire Protection Strategy?
The First Nations Fire Protection Strategy is an evergreen document that was developed in 2010 in consultation with experts such as the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada, regional firefighter associations, and other government departments.
The strategy identifies priority areas for joint collaboration aimed at preventing fires before they start through improved fire safety education, training, and inspections. It also strives to strengthen fire protection services through the modernization of service standards and by investing in infrastructure and activities that reduce fire risk.
In April 2016, INAC and AFAC published an updated 2016-2021 Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy with an emphasis on increased collaboration between INAC and AFAC.
Although the 2010-2015 First Nations Fire Protection Strategy made progress in reducing fire related risks, both INAC and the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada recognized a need to have a more focused approach for:
- partnership for First Nation fire service
- fire prevention education
- community standards
- fire service operational standards
INAC and AFAC meet twice each year, in February and August, to oversee the renewed strategy, review progress, and plan collaborative activities.
For more details, visit the Joint First Nations Fire Protection Strategy (2016-2021).
lnsurance on Reserve
Are houses and community buildings on First Nation reserves covered by insurance?
First Nation communities that receive annual capital funding from INAC for on-reserve housing are responsible for the planning and management of their housing portfolio. Capital funds may be used for a range of housing needs including planning, construction, renovation, maintenance, and insurance.
It is the First Nation’s responsibility to make these spending decisions, and to allocate housing to its members, according to the priorities and needs of the community.
There are a range of insurance providers and insurance possibilities available to First Nation residents, from insurance being provided through band councils that own homes to insurance being provided by companies to individual First Nation residents. For more information, it would be best to contact individual First Nation band councils, residents or insurance providers.
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