VICTORIA -- Three South Island municipalities – Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay – have updated their firefighting mutual aid agreement, which is designed to streamline operations across the region.

The municipalities say that a new automatic aid model has been introduced, which allows the fire departments to send a coordinated, pre-determined response to specific types of hazards.

The update means that individual fire departments no longer need to file a request for aid, resulting in “faster and better service,” according to Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay.

The new agreement will also expand each fire department’s resource capacity, and provides opportunities for inter-municipal firefighting training and operational planning.

Meanwhile, a cost recovery process has also been introduced, meaning that municipalities will be reimbursed for their work outside of their own region.

“This more modern, all-encompassing agreement aligns with expectations of collaboration, streamlined services, and leveraging economies of scale, resulting in cost effective service delivery and best use of tax dollars,” said the three municipalities in a release Tuesday.

The original mutual aid agreement, which allows fire departments to assist other municipalities if they are overwhelmed, was first created in 1980. Since then, calls for service have increased dramatically in each region to approximately 7,000 calls per year for Victoria, 6,500 per year for Saanich and 1,300 per year for Oak Bay.

“The top priority of every fire department is public and firefighter safety,” said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce.

“These new agreements assist to identify an important tool for our departments to call upon in situations where additional resources are required immediately, to address and ensure the safety of firefighters and the citizens of our municipalities in responding to high risk and, increasingly, high rise or multi-occupancy environments.”