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Tag: Pincher Creek Emergency Services

Electrical sparks fly as a building burns.

Arson behind destruction of home and business, authorities say

A Pincher Creek man is before the courts after two buildings in the community were destroyed by fire in separate incidents Jan. 9.

Michael Patterson, 35, is charged with two counts of arson in connection with blazes that broke out just minutes apart at Dano’s Hydro Heaven, at the corner of East Avenue and Kettles Street downtown, and inside a home in the 600 block of Adelaide Street.

Investigation indicated that accelerants had been used at both locations, Pincher Creek RCMP said.

Patterson also faces charges of assaulting a peace officer with a weapon and disarming/attempting to disarm a peace officer at the time of his arrest while fleeing the scene of the residential fire.

Specific details have yet to be released, but witnesses to the downtown fire said they heard a large blast just after 5 p.m., the impact buckling the west wall of the hydroponics business.

Fire crews arriving on scene faced a fully involved blaze and could do little to save the building. Their efforts prevented the fire’s spread to other businesses and homes.

 

Wedding banquet view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Firefighter hoses down blaze at Dano's Hydro Heaven in Pincher Creek

Photo by Cary Robison

 

A nearby connection hub that provides Shaw phone and internet service was damaged, resulting in a community-wide outage for Shaw customers that lasted into Wednesday. 

Flames and smoke from the house fire, at its height, could be seen for several blocks east and west.

While no estimates were given, damage to the two destroyed buildings is likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Patterson was to make his first court appearance Jan. 11 via closed circuit video, but “wasn’t able to be produced,” duty counsel Vincent Guinan told Justice J.N. LeGrandeur in Pincher Creek court of justice during a scheduled bail hearing.

Patterson was under guard in a Lethbridge hospital but there was no indication of his condition.

His court appearance was rescheduled for Monday in Lethbridge.

 

Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce notice of annual general meeting on brightly coloured background

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta
Flames engulf black silhouette of Dano's Hydro Heaven in Pincher Creek

Alleged arsonist misses court appearance

Michael Patterson, scheduled to appear in Pincher Creek court of justice today on arson charges, was a no-show.

Duty counsel Vincent Guinan told Justice J.N. LeGrandeur that Patterson, expected to attend via closed-circuit television, “wasn’t able to be produced.”

Reportedly under guard at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, Patterson’s condition is unknown.

The 35-year-old Pincher Creek man is charged with two counts of arson after separate fires were reported at a home and a business around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Pincher Creek Emergency Services was called first to a fire at Dano’s Hydro Heaven at the corner of East Avenue and Kettles Street in downtown Pincher Creek and minutes later to a house fire in the 600 block of Adelaide Street.

The structures were destroyed and Pincher Creek RCMP said in a press release Thursday that the investigation revealed accelerant use in both instances.

RCMP said Patterson was apprehended while fleeing the scene of the residential fire. Along with arson, he was charged with assaulting a peace officer with a weapon and disarming/attempting to disarm a peace officer.

The court has also processed a no-contact order against the accused.

A show-cause hearing, which will determine if Patterson can be released from custody, has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 15, in Lethbridge.

 

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RCMP officer in cruiser speaks to arson suspect in the back seat

Arson charges laid in Pincher Creek fires

Michael Patterson, 35, of Pincher Creek has been charged with two counts of arson after separate fires destroyed a home and a business on Jan. 9.

Pincher Creek Emergency Services was called first to a fire at Dano’s Hydro Heaven at the corner of East Avenue and Kettles Street in downtown Pincher Creek and minutes later to a house fire in the 600 block of Adelaide Street.

The structures were completely destroyed and investigation revealed accelerant use in both instances, Pincher Creek RCMP said.

Patterson was apprehended by police while fleeing the scene of the residential fire, RCMP said. Along with arson, he is charged with assaulting a peace officer with a weapon and disarming/attempting to disarm a peace officer.

Patterson was remanded into custody after a judicial interim release hearing and appears in court today, Jan. 11, 2024.

 

Indoor and outdoor view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

 

 

Holiday Train passes through the rocks of Frank Slide

Holiday Train on track for Dec. 12

Just a few last-minute details to work through and then it’ll be all systems go for a morning visit from the CPKC Holiday Train on Dec. 12 at Pincher Station.

“Things are coming along very well from an organizational point of view and we’re really looking forward to the arrival of the train at 10:35,” says committee member Alice Wagenaar. 

“We have a couple of good musicians that will perform from the train, and it’s the first time in four years, so we’re excited. It’s going to be a fun event.”

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the festive locomotive’s trip across the country.

“We will have hot chocolate at the event and Santa Claus will make an appearance,” fellow committee member Rose Murfin adds. “We could still use a couple of volunteers.”

While RCMP and Pincher Creek Emergency Services will handle traffic on the roadway, the group is looking for one or two bodies, with some traffic control knowledge, to help with on-site parking.

 

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If you can lend a hand, email Rose at rmurfin@gmail.com.

Speaking of parking …

“We’re asking anyone coming down to arrive between 10 and 10:20. Give yourself time to park and gather by the train,” Alice suggests. 

“And, with this event being a fundraiser for our food bank, if you’re able to make a donation of a non-perishable food item, or a cash donation, there will be someone there to collect it.”

A 30-minute show featuring former Calgarian Kiesza and Vancouverite Tyler Shaw will begin on the rail-car stage at 10:45 before it moves west to its next stop in Crowsnest Pass. 

The train is expected to arrive in Coleman at 12:40 p.m., stopping on the railway crossing south of 17th Avenue between 69th and 70th streets, for a 12:45 concert start.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

Matthew Peterson, smiling man with short dark hair in emergency services uniform.

It takes a special person to be a volunteer firefighter

Raised in Crowsnest Pass, and having spent time away from the area as a young adult, Lt. Matthew Peterson has returned to make Pincher Creek his latest home base.

A former newspaper reporter and editor in British Columbia., the volunteer officer switched careers about 10 years ago to try his hand at mining near where he grew up.

“I actually started my emergency services training through the mine with the mine rescue program,” Matthew says. “I really liked the training. I really liked the things we were doing, so I decided to join the local fire department in Crowsnest Pass.”

When the family decided to move to Pincher Creek, Matthew approached fire Chief Pat Neumann to ask if he could become a lieutenant, a rank he had in Crowsnest Pass.

“So, I came over here and worked my way up, got to know everybody in the area and the people,” he says. “It’s been a good fit.”

Matthew admits it takes a special kind of person to be, not only a firefighter, but a volunteer firefighter.

“It’s a huge sacrifice that all the members make, having our families and commitments, our day jobs … to be able to put those things aside,” he says. “At times, we have to leave the family dinner, leave the family outing.”

It’s a decision he’s glad he made years ago, but it does come with an added responsibility.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

“You know, some of the guys might like to go out for a few beers after work, but you have to make a conscious choice, where that’s not an option, where I want to be on call for my community if they need me.”

Matthew’s favourite part about the role is the training that’s provided.

 “A lot of really cool things you get to learn, a lot of really good stuff,” he says. “Just being able to use those skills when you go out on calls, it’s huge … and it’s needed.”

And, what kid wouldn’t want to grow up driving a real fire truck?

Unlike some volunteer opportunities where there might be requirements going in, all the training is provided by the department at no cost to the firefighter. But having transferable skills certainly doesn’t hurt.

“In my case, I had my industrial first aid ticket and, of course, my mine rescue training,” Matthew says.

Is being a volunteer firefighter something he’d recommend to a friend or someone in the community? Absolutely!

“I mean, you see those big TV shows like Chicago Fire and such, but in reality it’s us. It’s the people next door, it’s your auto mechanic, it’s your coal miner, that are going to be coming to help you at the end of the day.”

Thank you, Matthew, and to all our firefighters for being there!

 

 

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Junior firefighter Ruan Peterson drops a firehose from a balcony.

Firefighting opportunities for Pincher Creek teens

Pincher Creek Emergency Services is offering students in grades 10 and up the opportunity to begin pursuing a career in emergency services through its junior firefighting program.

Students work toward acquiring their National Fire Protection Association 1001 Level 1 and 2 certifications, which identify the minimum job performance requirements for firefighters. 

They are also educated in hazardous-materials operations, designed to teach future first responders how to handle such materials and weapons of mass destruction.

“We are hoping to offer students interested in emergency services a chance to try it before investing their time and money,” says Lt. Matthew Peterson of PCES.

“This program, along with some real-life experience on calls, will offer students an advantage in the job market.”

Students attend practices every second and fourth Thursday of the month, from 7 to 9 p.m.. The curriculum features a mix of both theoretical and practical learning, with most sessions taking place at the Pincher Creek fire hall. 

 

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Students will join the rest of the department to learn firefighting theory, which is everything from fire behaviour to building construction. They also learn the necessary hands-on skills required to tend to an emergency situation.

According to Matthew, while the majority of instruction and testing will be held in Pincher Creek, there will be the odd trip to “burn houses” out of town to practice live scenarios.

Students are not expected to finish the program by a set date. They can take three years if they prefer to take their time, or the department can assist older students in fast-tracking their way toward obtaining their certifications, which is more intense. 

The department is still working out the cost for a student to take the program, but Matthew suspects parents may only need to cover the $150 textbook fee. He adds that if a student really wants to participate but can’t because of cost, the department will look to find a way to make it work.

While no start date for the program has been released yet, Matthew will be visiting Matthew Halton High School, St. Michael’s School and Livingstone School to gauge student interest. 

For more information about the program or to schedule an orientation session, contact Matthew at 403-563-9197. Students will have to attend an orientation session with a parent or legal guardian to go over expectations and learn more about the courses.

 

 

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Map of Alberta showing fire advisory for MD of Pincher Creek Area

Fire danger rating lowered, thanks to recent rain

For the second time this month, the fire danger rating in the town and MD of Pincher Creek has been lowered.

In early September, a ban in place for most of the summer was eased to a fire restriction.

“On Saturday the 21st we downgraded it, again, to a fire advisory with the rain and conditions having improved,” fire Chief Pat Neumann tells Shootin’ the Breeze.

Unlike August, though, when almost all the month’s rain fell during an Aug. 30 thunderstorm, this month’s moisture has been spread out, allowing the vegetation to green up.

But, Neumann warns, conditions can change on a dime.

“So, what a fire advisory allows people to do is have recreational firepits with a permit. It also allows us to issue debris burn permits or notification of burn for residents within the MD.”

It’s also important to note that the district may not necessarily have the final say on where fires are allowed.

 

Red and black angus bulls on poster for Blades Angus Bull Sale

 

“One of the things that makes our MD unique is a protected forest area, which resides mostly on the western edge that is governed under forestry guidelines,” Neumann says.

“So, what that means is they need to pay attention to what Alberta Forestry posts in regards to fire restrictions and fire bans, and currently we don’t have any.”

As we move into the first full week of fall, Neumann is thankful for one thing: the quiet fire season the area has enjoyed.

“Given the conditions we had elsewhere in the province, the Northwest Territories and B.C., there was an awful lot of media education, making sure people understood the risks and hazards of the landscape.”

People are pretty understanding when it comes to having some freedoms taken away, he says, referring to the long-standing tradition of families gathering around a campfire, something that couldn’t happen this past summer.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of man-made fires started within the rural landscape this year and that’s really a testament to people actually paying more attention to the conditions.”

Full updated details on fire bans for the MD are posted online at www.pincherfire.ca. There, you’ll also find information on fire bans from around the province as well as how to apply for burn and firepit notifications.

 

Solar panel on ad for Riteline Electric in Pincher Creek
white and red megaphone on green background announcing weekend closure of Pincher Creek Emergency Department

Pincher Creek ER closed overnight Saturday and Sunday

Pincher Creek will be without emergency room service overnight Saturday and Sunday this weekend, a second closure necessary this month due to a physician shortage.

This impacts both local residents and visitors to the community.

Alberta Health Services issued a notice this morning stating that the emergency department of the Pincher Creek Health Centre will close at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 22 and reopen at 7:30 Sunday morning.

The ER will close again at 7:30 p.m. Sunday and reopen Monday morning at 7:30.

Nursing staff will remain on-site to care for inpatients and will have physician support by phone.

Residents are advised that the health centres in Crowsnest Pass, Fort Macleod and Cardston, along with Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, will accept patients from the area, and to call 911 in the case of an emergency.

Health Link 811 is also available for non-emergency, health-related questions at any time.

Pincher Creek Emergency Services will respond as usual and facilitate transfers to neighbouring sites as necessary.

 

Red sign with white arrow and text directing to emergency room

Pincher Creek ER temporarily closed on long weekend

The Friday afternoon of the Canada Day long weekend is not when anyone wants to hear of an emergency room closure that would impact both local residents and visitors to the community.

Alberta Health Services issued a notice around 2:30 stating that the emergency department of the Pincher Creek Health Centre would close at 8 a.m. Saturday and not be accessible until Monday at 8 a.m.

Residents were advised that the health centres in Crowsnest Pass, Fort Macleod and Cardston, along with Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, would accept patients from the area, and to call 911 in the case of an emergency.

Pincher Creek Emergency Services was charged with responding as usual and facilitating transfers to neighbouring sites as necessary.

 

 

“These closures only happen after exhausting all other options,” AHS said in a written statement Tuesday. “Alberta Health Services (AHS) is committed to maintaining ongoing access to health care in Pincher Creek, including the Emergency Department (ED), and are doing all we can to ensure patients receive the care they need when they need it.”

Specific questions regarding the number of patients turned away at the door or sent to other locations did not receive a response. 

Nor did the more pressing question: is this a sign of things to come?

The word "budget" printed in blue and surrounded by synonyms

Budget amendment slightly raises MD of Pincher Creek taxes

Council for the MD of Pincher Creek has passed a slight property tax increase through an amendment to this year’s budget.  

The amendment, passed April 11, adds about $185,000 in taxes to the roughly $13.4 million in municipal revenue approved by council when it passed the 2023 budget last fall, an increase of just under 1.4 per cent, according to finance director Meghan Dobie. 

Most of the extra revenue will go toward a $250,000 transfer to the MD’s Regional Community Initiative Reserve, a store of money set aside for capital projects and services MD residents access in the MD and town of Pincher Creek, Cowley and Crowsnest Pass, Dobie explained. 

Just over $57,800 of the extra taxes will supplement the MD’s contribution to recreation services at the town’s Multi-Purpose Facility at 895 Main St. The MD pays for one-third of those costs every year, according to the current agreement between town and MD councils. 

The tax bump pales against the roughly 13 per cent year-over-year rise in assessed residential property values across the MD. The assessed values of non-residential properties meanwhile swelled by around $125 million, a roughly 7.5 per cent increase over 2022. Both increases were driven overwhelmingly by inflation, Dobie said. 

Property assessments determine a municipality’s maximum allowable tax base, but elected councils decide the rate at which residents and business owners pay municipal taxes each year. MD council dropped this year’s residential property tax rate by about nine per cent, while rates for farmland remained essentially unchanged. 

The impact on individual taxpayers will depend on the class of properties they own, their assessed property values, and the property tax rates applied to those values. 

Municipal budgets, also decided by councils, reflect the amount of taxes needed to maintain or increase service levels, pay down debt and put cash into reserve accounts, according to Municipal Government Act regulations. 

This year’s tax increase is offset by initial cost projections for the Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission that came in roughly $166,500 above what the commission actually needs from the MD this year. 

Baby with bright blue eyes has face scrunched up in reaction to stinky smell

Chemical spill stinks up Pincher Creek

A small chemical spill cast a noxious stink over the east side of Pincher Creek on Sunday morning, according to Pincher Creek Emergency Services.

A spokesperson for the Alberta Energy Regulator said about 100 litres of petroleum distillate, a strong-smelling precursor to gasoline, was spilled in three spots between a bulk fuel station on the 1000 block of Main Street and Highway 6, starting at around 9:30 a.m.

No one was hurt and the spill did not reach any waterways, PCES Chief Pat Neumann told Shootin’ the Breeze

The distillate leaked from a fuel truck coming from the former Shell Waterton gas plant near Twin Butte, according to a statement Monday from Plains Midstream Canada, a Calgary-based firm that provides logistical support to oil and gas companies. 

The company said it’s investigating the cause and exact volume of the spill. 

 

 

“Our priorities are to protect the safety of everyone in the area and minimize any impacts to the environment. We have completed initial surface clean up, offloaded the product from the trailer, and safely removed the truck and trailer from the area,” the statement continued. 

Neumann said the truck driver “did everything proactively as soon as he realized what was going on,” driving to nearby Pincher Station, where he set about containing the leak. 

PCES contacted Transport Canada’s emergency centre, CANUTEC, and then joined cleanup efforts led by the fuel transport company.

“The cleanup is already substantively wrapped up” at each of the three spill sites, Neumann said.

Plains Midstream thanked PCES for their prompt response, telling the Breeze, “We are continuing to work with PCES to monitor air quality and conduct further remediation, as required.”

 

 

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Fire truck parked on highway surrounded by vehicles in swirling snow after a multi-vehicle crash near Pincher Creek.

Two hospitalized after at least eight vehicles collide at Cowley

Pincher Creek RCMP are investigating a series of multiple-vehicle collisions on Highway 3 between Pincher Station and Cowley, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

Hodge confirmed there were a few injuries among motorists involved in four collisions reported near Pincher Station between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday.

First responders closed Highway 3 near Cowley at around 10 a.m. Thursday, following a second series of collisions. 

Hodge said it wasn’t clear exactly how many vehicles were involved in either smash-up as of Thursday afternoon.

 

 

Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said at least eight vehicles were involved in the Cowley pileup, including multiple tractor-trailers.

Neumann said two people were taken to hospital with moderate injuries. One was treated in Pincher Creek hospital and later transferred to Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, while the other was taken to Crowsnest Pass hospital, then airlifted to a Calgary hospital.

PCES on Wednesday evening attended a single-vehicle rollover on a stretch of Highway 22 near Lundbreck and a multiple-vehicle collision on Highway 6 near Pincher Creek, Neumann said.

 

 

Hodge said charges are expected against drivers believed to be responsible for some of the pileups, as per Alberta’s Traffic and Safety Act, advising that the detachment’s investigation could last through the weekend. 

What is clear is that many drivers aren’t driving to winter highway conditions, which Hodge said are notoriously treacherous between Pincher Station and Crowsnest Pass. 

Snowdrifts had crept onto Highway 3 at Pincher Station by late Wednesday afternoon, but responding officers reported adequate visibility. Neumann said the highway was slippery near Cowley Thursday morning, adding that blowing snow had reduced visibility.

 

 

“People aren’t slowing down. They aren’t driving to road conditions,” Hodge said. 

Mounties don’t believe drugs or alcohol were involved in any of the collisions they attended, he said. 

Pincher Creek RCMP strongly recommend that drivers use caution on Highway 3. 

“When you see a snowdrift on the highway, slow down and wait until it’s safe to drive around it,” Hodge said.

 

 

 

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Emergency workers work on an evening accident scene on icy roads near Pincher Station

Charges may await some drivers in Highway 3 pileups

Pincher Creek RCMP are investigating a series of multiple-vehicle collisions on Highway 3 between Pincher Station and Cowley, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge.

Hodge confirmed a few minor injuries among motorists involved in four collisions reported near Pincher Station between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. Thursday.

First responders closed Highway 3 near Cowley at around 11 a.m. Thursday, following a second series of collisions. 

Hodge said it wasn’t clear how many vehicles were involved in either smash-up as of Thursday afternoon. Mounties left the highway at about noon, he said. 

Charges are expected against drivers believed to be responsible for some of the pileups, as per Alberta’s Traffic and Safety Act, with Hodge advising that the Mounties’ investigation could last through the weekend.

 

 

What is clear is that many drivers aren’t driving to winter highway conditions, which Hodge said are notoriously treacherous between Pincher Station and Crowsnest Pass. 

Snowdrifts had crept onto the highway at Pincher Station by late Wednesday afternoon, but responding officers said visibility was decent.

“People aren’t slowing down,” Hodge said. “They aren’t driving to road conditions.” 

Mounties don’t believe drugs or alcohol were involved in any of the collisions, he said. 

Pat Neumann, chief at Pincher Creek Emergency Services, wasn’t immediately available for comment before Shootin’ the Breeze filed this story online Thursday afternoon. 

Pincher Creek RCMP strongly recommend that drivers use caution on Highway 3. 

“When you see a snowdrift on the highway, slow down and wait until it’s safe to drive around it,” Hodge said.

 

 

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Fire truck parked on highway surrounded by vehicles in swirling snow after a multi-vehicle crash near Pincher Creek.

Multi-vehicle pile-up closes Highway 3 at Cowley

First responders have shut down Highway 3 near the Village of Cowley following a multiple-car pile-up.
Pincher Creek Emergency Services announced the closure shortly before 11 a.m., citing the need to protect service members.

Details are sparse at this point, and Shootin’ the Breeze is awaiting comment from PCES Chief Pat Neumann as well as Pincher Creek RCMP.

PCES reported a multi-car collision on the highway at Pincher Station late Wednesday night. Shootin’ the Breeze is awaiting comment on that incident as well.

Emergency Services are recommending that motorists avoid Highway 3 between Pincher Station and Cowley.

Updated story available

 

 

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Male with short, dark hair and woman with dark dark hair and cap, stand in front of an ambulance. Both are dressed in navy blue uniforms. Pat Neumann is the Pincher Creek fire chief and Sariah Brasnett is deputy-chief.

Wait times at urban hospitals tying up Pincher Creek ambulances

Increasing wait times at urban hospitals are delaying treatments for patients transferred by Pincher Creek Emergency Services’ ambulance crews and tying up paramedics, PCES Chief Pat Neumann told Shootin’ the Breeze.

Neumann said PCES crews have long experienced these delays at Calgary hospitals, especially at Foothills Medical Centre, which Neumann said handles most of the cardiac emergencies, advanced heart treatments and diagnostics, and complex traumas within Alberta Health Services’ south zone.

But similar bottlenecks have hit the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, which also takes routine and emergency patients from Pincher Creek and surrounding areas, and where Neumann said PCES crews have consistently reported emergency room delays since last summer. 

“Lethbridge is terrible now” for wait times, Neumann said.

“It’s to a point where, unless they actually are admitting the patient to the ER right away, (PCES crews) are typically waiting every time they go now.”

 

 

A return trip to Calgary will tie up a PCES ambulance crew for at least five hours, with crews spending at least three hours on trips to and from Lethbridge, the chief explained.

The department has two ambulances. When one has to travel to and from Calgary or Lethbridge, “That only leaves one ambulance in this community to do any other urgent transfers going out of this area, or to respond to any other emergency call,” Neumann said. 

Longer waits are the norm when urban hospitals increasingly provide routine treatment and diagnostics for rural patients. At the same time, Neumann said his crews now attend calls from town residents struggling to access primary care.

“We’re picking people up that are going to the (Pincher Creek) Health Centre because they don’t have a doctor. They don’t know what else to do to get the services they need.” 

 

 

 

Patients are showing up at the health centre sicker than they might have been if they’d had regular care from a family doctor, and the problem “compounds itself” as the hospital’s doctors and nurses scramble to fill the gap, Neumann explained. 

Six doctors now work at the health centre and its attached medical clinic, down from 11 several years ago, according to the clinic’s executive director, Jeff Brockmann. (Dr. Gavin Parker manages the health centre’s ER.)

Local ambulance calls have more than doubled since Neumann started at PCES roughly 20 years ago, with hospital transfers up by a similar margin. Crews that responded to just under 750 calls in 2005 were handling over 1,500 in 2018. Transfers meanwhile climbed from around 350 to just over 600 in the same period, according to PCES statistics. 

 

 

The town’s population held at around 3,700 for much of that time, but shrank to around 3,400 by 2021, according to the Government of Alberta’s online regional dashboard. 

Just over 25 per cent of residents are 65 or older — a slight proportional increase over 2016, according to Statistics Canada’s 2021 census. As Neumann suggested, the town isn’t getting bigger — it’s getting older.

In response, Health Minister Jason Copping said the Alberta government is investing in rural health care. 

Copping said at a media roundtable Monday that the province had put up $1 million to explore options to train doctors at the University of Lethbridge and nearby Northwestern Polytechnic. 

 

 

“We recognize that we need to train and hire locally, and by getting those seats out in rural Alberta, the more likely that (graduating doctors) are going to stay,” he said.

Copping stressed that Alberta’s United Conservative Party provided many more millions in budget 2022, including the UCP’s new collective agreement with Alberta’s doctors. 

The province further hopes to attract foreign doctors by “leveraging immigration.” Seventeen doctors from outside Canada have agreed to work in Lethbridge, with some already working there. 

“I can tell you more is coming.… So, stay tuned,” Copping said. 

 

 

Dark-haired woman in white shirt leans against a dark brown podium and speaks into a microphone while two men listen with interest from a table to the side of her

Short-term rental bylaw amendment deferred

Pincher Creek’s town council voted late Monday to defer its vote on a bylaw amendment designed to regulate short-term rentals within town limits.

Monday’s decision at chambers followed a lengthy public hearing that saw around 50 residents and at least one out-of-town investor pile into the gym at town hall, with many speaking for and against the amendment.

If passed, the amendment would put permitting and licensing requirements on upwards of 20 short-term rentals already operating in town through tourist accommodation websites like Airbnb and VRBO, and limiting STRs not lived in by their operators to five per cent of homes per residential street.

No such limit would apply to STRs with live-in operators. Bed-and-breakfast operators would not be allowed to operate STRs on their licenced premises.

Pincher Creek’s current land use bylaw doesn’t mention STRs at all, though in practice, town hall has granted business licences on an ad-hoc basis to operators that have applied, according to chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh.

The bylaw was drafted by Steve Harty of the Lethbridge planning commission, Oldman River Regional Services, which Wilgosh said provides planning and development guidance to Pincher Creek and several outlying municipalities.

 

 

Reading his council report to start Monday’s hearing, Harty told the audience that the town’s STR industry needs some form of regulation amid growing concerns on the part of operators who want clear expectations from town hall and residents who say STRs are putting pressure on the town’s tight long-term rental and real estate markets. STRs are meanwhile subject to the province’s new tourist levy and the federal GST, Harty added.

Speaking for the amendment, Lane Heggie said he owned and operated a purpose-built STR on the 1000-block of Livingston Way, but doesn’t live in Pincher Creek.

Clear, reasonable regulations would serve the community well, he said, adding that operators should talk frequently with their neighbours to speedily resolve conflicts.

Lynn Brasnett, a longtime area Realtor and former rental property manager, pointedly reminded the audience that shutting out STRs would do little to boost the town’s rental stock.

“We have run a less than one per cent vacancy rate in this town for over 30 years,” she said, insisting that many STR operators would likely have to sell off their investment properties if they couldn’t market their services on Airbnb, or the like.

 

 

Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left,  and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left, and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

 

Jenae Toews, who runs an STR in town with her husband, agreed.

“At this time in our lives, with my husband doing school, we more than likely wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the property as a long-term rental,” she said.  

Japhia Epp, a paramedic with Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said she and her husband own three long-term rentals and four STRs.

“We get a lot of families that come to Pincher Creek, and some of them say, ‘We would not come here if there wasn’t a place to stay like this.’ ”

Epp went on to say that she and her husband actively promote other local businesses to their Airbnb guests.

Coun. Wayne Oliver then asked Epp how she’d feel about living next to an STR.

“I am a neighbour to a short-term rental in this community,” she replied. “I do know the owners of the house and have regular communication with them. The idea is that, ‘If anything goes wrong, you let me know.’ ”

 

 

Speaking against the bylaw, Chantal Laliberte stressed the town’s burgeoning housing crisis.

“If Pincher Creek was a town with plenty of long-term rentals and plenty of affordable housing, I wouldn’t be standing here, talking to you

“Housing is not like any other commodity. It’s not like gold, which is a commodity but is not a human right,” she said, drawing on the UN’s founding text, which enshrines the right to adequate housing.

Joan Brees then took the podium, listing 22 questions and concerns from residents she said weren’t able to attend the hearing. These ranged from the town’s apparent lack of authority to enforce whatever regulations council might approve to noise complaints, parking shortages and safety concerns by worried neighbours.

One resident who spoke to Brees said a vacation home on their block had been rented to 15 people “and kiddos” last summer. Residents don’t want to see “party people” take over their streets, Brees said.

 

 

Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP, said Monday afternoon that he was not aware of any 911 complaints specifically related to disturbances or noise complaints at local STRs.

Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said in a written statement to council that he would welcome the amendment’s regulations, noting that a map of active STRs would probably help fire and ambulance crews.

Presiding over council’s meeting at chambers, Mayor Don Anderberg and Coun. Oliver were quick to suggest putting off a final vote.

“Getting this right would be nice, right off the bat,” Anderberg said.

While he was personally in favour of regulating STRs, the mayor cautioned that council needed more time to deliberate.

Coun. Sahra Nodge countered that council should come to a vote, having just taken in “a very respectful, very informative public hearing.”

But the emerging consensus resolved that the amendment needed tightening up, ending in a unanimous vote to revisit the amendment at council’s next meeting, Monday, Nov. 28.

 

 

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