Chief Charlie Boyte's report for June 2014

Michael Boyle

Well folks it is fire season again and I am pretty sure the few hairs I have left just turned a little greyer. PIFR had responded to 69 emergency calls as of mid-May, 30 per cent higher than the same period in 2013. Our volunteers are training and working hard to ensure when you call 911 someone will come who knows what to do to help you through that emergency.

Over the past few weeks our volunteers have completed extensive training to address building collapse search and rescue. They must complete a number of prerequisites to qualify including confined space rescue, technical rope rescue, trench rescue awareness and hazmat operations. This training was undertaken to address earthquakes and severe weather events. Each can result in extensive damage including fires and building collapse, injury, and also present an number of hazards such as downed hydro lines and trees. I am happy to report that we now have the formal skills required to initiate a safe response to these events.

From now through to October all the volunteer fire services on the Southern Gulf Islands (SGI) face a challenging influx of visitors and seasonal residents. Risk exponentially increases with more people and when folks are unaware of the conditions that result in wildfires that can lead to disaster. The wet spring has resulted in a proliferation of fine fuels like grass and underbrush. As these fuels dry out they can present an extreme hazard allowing fires to start easily and spread extremely fast … a dangerous combination on an Island.

Wildfire is the number one threat to our safety and our property. This threat is compounded when more people are doing more things in and around the forest. It is also compounded by the lack of water supplies for firefighting, rural response times, and the intermix of homes and forested areas.

Pender Island Fire Rescue will be focused on wildfire prevention, education and early response over the next few months. The wildfire prevention program will be delivered again this year at BC Ferries, the Farmers Market and other venues thanks to partnerships formed with the SGI Fire Departments, SGI Emergency Program, Parks Canada, Ministry of Forests, Islands Trust, the Office of the Fire Commissioner, BC Ferries and funding from the Capital Regional District.

Deputy Chief Mike Dine will be at the helm again spreading our message that fire prevention awareness is our best tool to limit risk. Early reporting and response is also essential. We have studied the circumstances around wildfires like those in Slave Lake and Kamloops in 2004. These fires required the evacuation of areas much larger than the Penders. Evacuating an island is a challenge we will do everything to avoid. So, we will need everyone’s cooperation to insure wildfires do not get started.

You can make a difference! If burning outdoors be extremely careful and follow the regulations stipulated on your permit. Watch for changes in the hazard rating and remember all permits are cancelled when the “No Fires Anywhere” signs are posted. You are legally responsible for any fire you light. You certainly won’t like the bill or the reputation if you start a wildfire.

Some simple truths: If it looks dangerous or unsafe it probably is; call 911 immediately and let a professional dispatcher make the decision about an appropriate response; if we can’t find you we can’t help you so make sure your address is visible day and night; house fires can spark wildfires so use the checklist on this website to see how yours measures up and how you can prevent fires from starting.

As well: Smokers must keep their butts out of the forests; if you think you are having a heart attack you probably are; the best way to get emergency medical help is to call 911 because doctors are not at the clinic 24/7; bikes, narrow roads, pedestrians and motor vehicles do not mix better on the Penders than anywhere else so drive slowly, be visible and be conscious of all types of traffic when using our narrow roads.

Volunteers Serving Community – There is simply no better way to provide quality, competent fire and rescue services in a rural community. The community is very fortunate to have dedicated volunteers looking after us. So folks; If you happen to see our committed volunteers out there, please take a minute to show your appreciation. They work tirelessly to train and respond to all types of emergencies to keep us all safe.

Forest Fire Threat Level

Burning is permitted
No permit is required
Regulations apply

PIFR Members Only

For any Emergency:

call 911


250 629-3321


Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict Valid CSS!