These FAQ use terms for:
Pender Island Fire Rescue - (PIFR)
Pender Islands Fire Protection Society - (PIFPS)
Capital Regional District - (CRD)
British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS)
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
There are three levels of governance for fire rescue services on Pender Island - Pender Island Fire Rescue (PIFR), the Pender Islands Fire Protection Society (PIFPS) and the Capital Regional District (CRD).
PIFR is managed by our Fire Chief, who is responsible for day to day operations, and to ensure that the right resources are available and capable to respond to calls in accordance with all relevant Acts and Regulations. The Fire Chief is responsible for management of the regulatory and business components necessary to provide fire and rescue services, including human resources, customer service, plus operating and capital budget management. The Chief is an employee of and accountable to the Pender Islands Fire Protection Society (PIFPS).
The Pender Islands Fire Protection Society (PIFPS) is the link with the community of North and South Pender Islands necessary to understand community needs and to establish longer term direction and planning for PIFR services. Society membership is open to every owner of real property and every other person that is domiciled within the boundaries of North or South Pender Island BC. The Society operates with an elected Board of Directors, who work directly with the Chief and other department members. The PIFPS elected Board meets regularly and is responsible for oversight of PIFR on behalf of the Society membership and community. All PIFPS Board meetings are open to the public. The PIFPS Board appoints a Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, and other such officers as required. The PIFPS Board establishes policies for fiscal oversight, service levels and governance of the fire and rescue service. The elected Board of Directors also manages the interface with the Capital Regional District (CRD). The Society holds its Annual General Meeting in the spring each year at which time the Board and PIFR report to the Society members. The Annual general meeting provides an opportunity for members to provide input on issues, vote, and to elect new Board members in accordance with the Society bylaws. The current Society membership fee is $2.00 annually.
The CRD provides local government services under the authority of the Local Government Act. In the case of fire rescue services for Pender Island, the CRD has enacted a bylaw and entered into an Agreement with PIFPS to provide those services for North and South Pender. CRD collects community taxes and disperses funds to PIFPS and other local services, based on their review of annual budgets submitted by those organizations. This is how Pender Island Fire Rescue is funded, through taxes collected by the CRD, based on a budget that has been agreed to by PIFPS and the CRD. The CRD holds title to the buildings, land, fire trucks and other apparatus required by PIFR to perform its services to the community except for equipment and supplies which are purchased out of PIFPS' own funds or provided by other organizations.
Simply put, PIFR responds to all hazardous situations on North and South Pender Islands, whenever and wherever capable, where knowledgeable and organized resources are needed to assist any resident, property owner, or visitor. This includes all onshore incidents and water emergencies whenever land-based assistance would be of value. Typical incidents include structural fires, chimney fires, medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, industrial or equipment accidents, hazardous materials incidents, burn complaints, rope rescues, injuries, flooding, downed power lines and a variety of other duties in response to requests from the public for assistance.
The department was originally formed to deal with fires. Over the years, as the community has grown, the needs and expectations for emergency response have also grown. The formal name - Pender Island Fire Rescue (PIFR) - reflects the broader range of services that are now provided. The mandate of the service is to protect the Pender Islands community and visitors from situations or incidents that may cause harm to persons or property.
The First Responder program was established by the British Columbia government to enable faster response to medical emergencies and to fill service gaps. Studies have shown that survival rates improve and health care costs decrease as the time required to respond and initiate interventions decreases. Faster response equals better results.
The typical response time for PIFR, from the 911 call to assistance on scene, is between 8 and 12 minutes. This speed is possible because of the large number of responders dispersed around the islands, and the multiple locations for responding fire trucks and other apparatus. The response time for BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) is typically longer, due to fewer staff and a single ambulance. Those few minutes could easily mean the difference between life and death for the person in distress. When the nature of the 911 call is clearly not as time sensitive, and within the capabilities of BCAS to manage, PIFR is not called out. This decision is made by the 911 dispatcher following defined guidelines.
However, there are often situations where PIFR resources are required to provide assistance to BCAS for extrication of patients from structures or hazards. BCAS may also request assistance from first responders when the local BCAS is under staffed or delayed.
The average number of calls is now generally in excess of 200 per year. This has been slowly increasing, both in quantity and diversity of emergency situations. In 2012 about 64% of the PIFR call outs were for non-fire emergencies.
As the number and range of emergency responses have increased, the complexity of maintaining the right resources, with the right skills, and the right equipment to safely and effectively manage those emergencies has also dramatically increased. As well, the Fire rescue Service is categorized by Work Safe BC as a high risk occupation, and is subject to strict worker safety regulation. To manage the resources and skills necessary to provide the range of services, and to conform to the many regulatory requirements for operations and safety, the PIFPS determined a number of years ago that a small number of full time paid positions were warranted. This arrangement is quite common for fire departments outside of major urban centres.
Our full time employees very effectively leverage a large number of volunteers hours to safely deliver consistent and competent emergency response services, in accordance with provincial and federal laws, and industry standards. All paid staff are focussed in support of the volunteer workforce, concentrating on training, facilities and equipment maintenance, logistics, fiscal management, regulatory compliance and reporting. Paid staff also respond to a large number of calls, and work diligently to enable more than 100 volunteers to serve the community effectively and safely. All volunteer firefighters are classified as employees under Employment Standards Acts and regulations.
This effort by a small number of paid employees fully enables the much larger group of volunteers to respond to emergencies with the right skills, the right facilities, and the right equipment that works when needed, without being burdened with all the work and logistics necessary to enable that response.
With more than 200 calls per year, it is very likely that you will hear sirens for fires, but also for emergency medical responses. In 2012 our emergency call volume was 212 of which 36% were fire related, 41% First responder medical, and 23% were vehicle accidents, downed power lines and other emergency incidents. Sirens are not used during non-emergency incidents.
When the initial call-out is issued, all available members respond to their nearest fire hall, prepare accordingly, load into a truck with appropriate apparatus and head toward the incident. When the first PIFR officer, or senior firefighter, arrives on the incident scene, he/she makes an assessment of the situation and determines how many of the responding members will be required to safely manage the incident. Any units or members who will not be required are advised by radio to stand down, and return to their originating halls. However, until that assessment is made, and communicated, all members respond as if they will be required as soon as possible. That means that you might see a fire truck, with lights and siren slow down, turn off the emergency signals, and turn around, after they receive the stand-down instruction.
In order to meet the requirements of Fire Underwriters and achieve benefits in lower fire insurance premiums, a fire station must be located within 8 kilometres of each dwelling. Based on the geography of the Pender Islands, that means three halls are required. Fire Underwriters also specifies the number and type of truck and other apparatus each hall should have, in order for residents to qualify for the lowest possible insurance costs.
Additional specialty equipment, like automotive extrication tools ("Jaws of Life"), and rope rescue gear has been secured over the years to enable more effective response to the increasing range of emergency situations. PIFR has worked carefully with other agencies to minimize duplication of resources, while ensuring that the necessary tools will be available when needed.
Due to the time-critical nature of emergency responses, practice of the necessary skills is crucial. Learning "on the job" is not a reasonable option, when lives and property are at risk.
As PIFR delivers such a broad range of services, there are regular weekly practices, as well as frequent weekend specialty training events. Additionally, new recruits complete about 20 weekend training sessions in their first year, completing more than 300 hours of internationally recognized training before becoming fully qualified as firefighters.
As mentioned before, the fulltime members have a broad range of management, training and maintenance responsibilities to complete between calls. In addition to training, other volunteers maintain and check equipment, particular the major trucks and other apparatus on defined schedules. Our volunteer responders carry on with their regular lives, until their pager sounds and summons them to the next call which can be any time of the day or night.
The amount of our property taxes that we pay for fire protection, and other emergency response services, is in line with other similar areas. The money that is allocated annually for PIFR is used to maintain and operate three fire halls, all trucks and apparatus, other equipment, cover all training costs, pay salaries and benefits for the small group of paid staff, provide stipends for volunteers, and to accumulate funds for replacement of major capital items.
PIFPS together with CRD sets aside 15% of the annual budget each year in restricted funds held by the CRD for use to replace and maintain facilities, fire trucks, apparatus and equipment.
One of the conclusions of an external review of PIFR operations and governance dated April, 2012 by FireWise Consulting was: "The residents, visitors and property owners on the Pender Islands receive a high standard of service for a modest cost. The cost to taxpayers to fund this well managed and equipped fire department is more than offset by savings in fire insurance premiums." The report is titled "Pender Island Fire Rescue, Pender Islands Fire Protection Society Operational and Governance Review April 2012". The review was commissioned by the PIFPS Board and the complete report is available for viewing at www.penderfire.org/PIFR-Review-2012.pdf
PIFR has several active programs to reduce the likelihood and impact of fires on the Pender Islands. The first of these is public signage on the islands indicating the level of fire hazard. Other activities include the Fire Safety Awareness Initiative at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal during the summers. This program, intended to help visitors and residents understand the real dangers of fire on the Pender Islands, has been successful in eliminating wildfires caused by human activity for the past seven years. As well, Pender Fire Rescue provides regular Fire Safety education sessions for various community groups, and distributes educational information at the local schools and community events and parades.
PIFR also operates a Fire Safety Inspection program that provides commercial property owners with proactive advice on possible fire hazards on their properties and assistance in conforming to the requirements of the British Columbia Fire Code.
This is a good question. Our staff and volunteers train and diligently practice to deliver a service that we hope you will never need. If you have been a PIFR "customer", you will have first-hand knowledge of the competency and skill of our team. However, if you have never been in that situation, the best answer will be to explain the standards and levels to which we train as follows:
All senior officers have completed the requirements of NFPA Standard 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications. Chief Officers are certified equivalent to Fire Officer 4 by the Office of the Fire Commissioner of British Columbia. Our Fire Chief. Charlie Boyte, has earned the professional designation of Chief Fire Officer (CFO) from the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, and was recognized in 2011 by Fire Underwriters and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs as the Canadian Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year. Deputy Chief Mike Dine was awarded the 2011 Lieutenant Governor's Award for public safety for his exceptional work in training firefighters and fire prevention.
All individual responders have been educated, tested and qualified for the services they provide. For each area of speciality, they are qualified to the appropriate National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) standard, or to the relevant provincial requirement.
All PIFR Medical First Responders are licensed by the British Columbia Ministry of Health as Emergency Medical Assistants and certified to Occupational First Aid level 2. This training is provided within the department by qualified PIFR First Responder Instructors. Many First Responders have also completed advanced medical training in management of spinal injuries, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated defibrillator (AED) use, and carry those endorsements on their Provincial licences. All PIFR structural firefighters are certified to the internationally recognized NFPA 1001 Standard for Professional Firefighters Qualifications by a College or University. These certifying colleges or universities must be accredited by the National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro-Board), or the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFASC) to deliver training that meets or exceeds the NFPA requirements.
Additionally, a number of responders have completed advanced training and certification in specialized areas, such as Technical Rope Rescue, Automobile Extrication, Hazardous Materials Management, and Public Education.
PIFR has qualified several members as certified Fire Service Instructors, so that accredited training can be delivered in conjunction with a regional college, locally and affordably, whenever possible.
These standards and qualifications are the same as used by professional fire departments across North America. As you can imagine, meeting and maintaining currency to the standards represents a very major commitment of time and resources, both from individual volunteers and PIFR staff.
So, to answer the question, "How good are they?" the short version is that our responders are as good as, or better than, required by international standards. But we hope you never have to find that out first hand.
The easiest source for this type of information is this PIFR website, Just click on "Fire Permits" on the right hand side of the page. You can also purchase a permit in this section if you need one.
We'd be happy to have your help. There are many roles in which volunteers can assist PIFR, not only as firefighter but in other contributions of time or expertise. Please contact Chief Charlie Boyte or Deputy Chief Mike Dine at 250-629-3321, Monday thru Saturday, 0830 until 1700.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns, you can check this website, or you can call PIFR at 250-629-3321. Also on the website are links to other provincial emergency service agencies. Questions may also be directed to the Fire Chief or Board Chair by email. The President of the Board can be contacted at email@example.com and the Fire Chief at firstname.lastname@example.org
Any resident or property owner is also welcome to become a member of the PIFPS by contacting the PIFR office at 250-629-3321.
For all emergencies - call 911.
From November 1st to March 31st (unless otherwise ordered by the Fire Chief) burning is permitted without a permit providing it is in accordance with the regulations stated in Capital Regional District Bylaw # 3452 which can be accessed on this website.
There is no open burning from July 1 to Sept 30.
In April, May, June and October a burning permit is required and these can be obtained online at our website or at Fire Hall #1. From April 1st through to October 31st fire threat conditions are constantly monitored. The Fire Chief is mandated to make decisions based on this information and implement burning restrictions as necessary.
Barrels are subject to the same restrictions as open burning.
Barrels are considered to be incinerators. They must be maintained in good condition that provides for proper combustion of the materials burned, be located at least 7.5 meters (25 ft.) from a building or propane tank and 1.5 meters (5 ft.) from fences, grass or trees. They must be fitted with a mesh screen or grill with openings of 3/8 inch or less to restrict sparks.
The easiest way to obtain a permit is to apply online on our website
Restrictions vary with the fire season threat level. For full details about restrictions go to High Risk Activities on our website or call Fire Hall #1 250-629-3321.
Do not make such a judgment. Call 911 immediately and let the professionals weigh the gravity of your emergency and respond accordingly. Do not call the local fire department. Fire halls are not staffed by volunteers 24/7 and delays in response may result.
We have maps detailing the location of every property on North and South Pender. That said, many emergencies are at night so it is imperative that your house number be posted at the entrance to your driveway. The numbers must be at least four inches tall, reflective and visible from both street directions.
Driveway specifications are clearly set out in CRD building regulations. Your driveway must be at least 3.6 metres wide and have a minimum overhead clearance of five metres. There are also regulations governing curves and grades. Contact the building inspector for details.
In Magic Lake Estates there are rated fire hydrants, many within 300 metres of homes which qualifies those homeowners for insurance discounts. In areas without hydrants we bring a pumper truck to the scene and /or pump water from a nearby pond or other water source. Work is underway to develop water supplies for fire protection in areas without hydrants.
There are a number of things you can do:
Residential sprinklers provide the best protection for you and your home. They protect your families and cherished belongings when a fire starts. These systems are sophisticated with only the sprinkler at the fire's point of origin becoming active. Fires can be quickly contained and water damage is minimal.
For more information go to the following links:
NFPA Home Fire Sprinklers www.nfpa.org ...
Home Fire Sprinkler Facts www.homefiresprinkler.org...
Inside your home you can also install a monitored smoke/fire detection system.
A fire can smoulder undetected in a vacant home for hours before it is noticed by a neighbour or passerby. Usually the alarm is raised when flames and smoke are bursting through the roof. By then, there is little any fire department can do to save the structure.
If that same house is equipped with a monitored smoke detection system, our volunteers save many precious minutes in response time and have a much better chance of containing the blaze to its point of origin.
The BC FireSmart Program offers many suggestions about fire proofing outside your home. These include creating a zone around your home that is free of combustible materials. The FireSmart manual can be found at:www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/firecom/pdf/homeowner-firesmart.pdf
There is more FireSmart material at Fire Hall #1.