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Rural residents in B.C. stand to lose fire protection services after city reneges on deal

The Cariboo Regional District says thousands of rural B.C. residents are in danger of losing fire protection services after the City of Williams Lake reneged on a deal.

The district now has 120 days to either pursue further legal action or find another solution after winning a B.C. Supreme Court injunction that will keep those citizens covered for fire protection in the meantime.

The district launched legal action alleging that in mid-December the city unilaterally refused to sign an agreement the jurisdictions had come to in August. The deal was for Williams Lake to provide fire service for residents living in the so-called "rural fringe" areas around the city for five years, starting Jan. 1.

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The city and district had both passed requisite laws to complete the agreement, then put it to a referendum where it was authorized by voters.

But the district alleged that Williams Lake council members then passed a resolution instead saying it would only agree to a one-year term, and that the cost must be fixed.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver granted the district the injunction it sought on Dec. 21, requiring the Williams Lake to temporarily honour its offer to protect citizens in the event of fire.

"While this is welcome news, a long-term resolution is still required," the district said in a news release.

According to the court documents filed in request for the injunction, the district plans to seek a declaration that the deal is valid and binding.

Otherwise, the documents say the district wants the city to be compelled to provide services until an "adequate alternative" can be implemented.

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