Councils for the Town of Altona and Municipality of Rhineland are pondering what level of fire protection they want to offer their communities, following the release of a provincial risk-management document.

The recommendations listed in the Hazard Analysis and Risk Management paper were formed over years of research headed up by Manitoba's Office of the Fire Commissioner and Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization, and outline three levels of service required for fire fighting along with the training and equipment related to each level. The goal is to better help departments and municipalities better manage their risk when fire crews are called out.

The first is a basic level where, as Greg Zimmerman, Fire Chief for Altona/Rhineland Emergency Services, explains, would essentially involve firefighters standing on the street shooting water in the direction of a fire while trying to keep neighbours' homes from burning.

Then there's an offensive level which is slightly more advanced and would allow members of the local fire service to enter a home or vehicle.

Finally, Zimmerman explains the third, full-service level would allow firefighters to tackle larger-scale incidents like commercial and industrial fires.

"Now it's up to the councils to take a look and decide which level of service they wish to offer their communities," said the fire chief, who has presented the risk management document to each administration.

Zimmerman says thanks to support from each community in recent years, Altona/Rhineland Emergency Services has worked its way up to meeting 85 percent of the criteria for that top level of service, noting it wouldn't take much to close the gap.

"My officers have been doing office training, so they're pretty much on target with the full service (level)," he explained. The only thing missing, according to Zimmerman, is for firefighters to complete one more level of training, which he says comes down to eight blocks of instruction time and a cost of $7,000 to be split between the two municipalities.

"This is just a matter of...catching up and from that point forward we will just incorporate it in our regular training."

"If we don't obtain that level then we're not allowed to make entry into the (commercial and industrial) buildings to fight the fire. That wouldn't bode well for our ratepayers," added Zimmerman.

In addition, the fire chief says the purchase of a bigger water tanker, a ladder truck and new air packs have also increased the department's capacity to fight larger-scale fires.