Chief Charlie Boyte's report for March 2012

Michael Boyle

This month I would like to provide some insight into the issues facing fire services across BC and how those relate to our island community.

There is a unique sense of safety and security inherent to island living created by limited access, lower population densities and lower crime rates.

It is extremely important that we do not allow these benefits to create complacency when it comes to our safety. In fact, our responders on Pender face the same types of emergencies as in urban centers. Unlike cities, however, we face added challenges of access to emergency scenes and extended travel times.

One significant difference between a city setting and Pender Island is that we attend each type of emergency event less often. This creates a hazard curve paradox. Typically people get really good at something they do often, but are not so good at things they do not do regularly. Addressing this paradox requires our volunteers to train more often to maintain the skills necessary to deliver emergency services competently.

We are very fortunate to have 42 responding members committed to doing just that. Our firefighters are trained and accredited to the internationally accepted NFPA 1001 standards. This training takes over 300 hours to complete. We also ask them to train for all the specialty operations such as hazmat, rope rescue and automobile extrications that are usually performed by specialist teams in urban centres. We task them with this work because there is simply no one else to call. We also ask our volunteers to contribute a minimum of 110 hours annually in skills maintenance training. Members trained in special operations will contribute more than 250 hours annually.

Occupational health and safety regulations dictate training requirements for good reason as these are challenging times. In 2004 a young firefighter in Clearwater was killed in the line of duty. The coroner’s inquest into this death resulted in sweeping changes in the requirements for monitoring and maintaining compliance with worker protection regulations. In 2005, in Yellowknife, the city and senior fire officials were charged in connection with the deaths of two firefighters under the NWT Safety Act. The charges alleged that the city and fire chief had failed to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of the firefighters, and failed to ensure they were adequately trained to safely perform their duties. The City of Yellowknife was assessed $300,000.

Firefighting is a high risk occupation and sometimes things go terribly wrong. When this happens events leading up to the accident are thoroughly analysed by the coroner, WorkSafeBC, the RCMP, the Office of the Fire Commissioner and other regulatory bodies. Injuries or workplace deaths are no longer tolerated under law and someone will likely be prosecuted if the accident was preventable. When this happens the community is faced with the grief and is often saddled with expensive legal fees, court costs and penalties.

Our legal and moral responsibility to protect our volunteers from unnecessary harm requires sound management and community support. Our volunteers are classified as employees under labour and worker protection regulations. It often surprises people to learn that volunteer fire chiefs are culpable for firefighter injuries and deaths. So are the captains and members of supervising crews, society directors, regional district CEOs and CFOs.


We are very fortunate to have a Board of Directors with the foresight to identify and address these challenging trends. That foresight has us well positioned to maintain our services affordably, while meeting the increasing demands for accountability in service delivery.


We will certainly face increased challenges in the future to recruit and retain emergency responders. The good news is that this community can meet these challenges. There is simply no way to do it better, or more cost effectively, than community members serving community!


Please give us a call at Hall #1 (629-3321) and see how you can help us to keep our community safer by becoming a member of the PIFR responders or support crew.

Forest Fire Threat Level

Burning is permitted
No permit is required
Regulations apply


Michael Dine

Deputy Chief
Technical Rescue

PIFR Members Only

For any Emergency:

call 911


250 629-3321


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