PINANTAN LAKE — As the investigation into a fire that burned the Pinantan General Store to the ground late last night and early this morning continues, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District will renew efforts to get funding for a Pinantan fire department.
Area L Director John Sternig brought the issue to the regional board today, asking it to take the case for funding to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and area MLAs and MPs to get rural fire services ruled eligible for federal gas tax funding.
The motion was approved unanimously by directors.
At the site, investigators were on the scene interviewing the store’s owners and working behind a taped-off area examining the smouldering remains of the store.
Loud pops from exploding bottles could occasionally be heard, keeping residents at a distance. The store included a liquor outlet.
One neighbouring family moved from the area last night because of fears the propane tanks behind the store might explode.
A tenant of the store who wasn’t there when the fire broke out said two cats are missing from a rental unit at the back of the store.
Sternig said at the TNRD meeting that fire halls and equipment aren’t considered a community service under the terms of federal gas tax funding. It’s very hard for rural communities to raise the capital funding necessary to set up fire departments, he said.
“I want people to be open to honestly consider a service,” he told The Armchair Mayor News. “The main thing is to establish some capital.”
TNRD CAO Sukh Gill said it’s possible fire halls might be included in new guidelines for the gas tax that are expected to be announced soon by the federal government, but it doesn’t look hopeful.
“We’ve heard that it is coming any day,” he said. “Early indications are that it hasn’t included fire halls.”
Sternig said Pinantan has a truck that used to be at the McLure fire department but without a hall it can’t be kept operational year-round and a volunteer fire department can’t be organized.
The board also voted to send a letter of sympathy to the Pinantan-Paul Lake Community Association for the loss of the store.