Chief Charlie Boyte's report for June 2015

Michael Boyle

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 45 emergency calls as of mid-May when I wrote this report. Our volunteers continue to train and work extremely hard to ensure when you call 911, someone will come who knows what to do to help you through that emergency. That is our commitment to you and your return on the investment you make in your local fire and rescue services through your taxes.

From now through to October we face a challenging influx of visitors and seasonal residents. Risk increases exponentially with more people and when folks are unaware of the conditions that result in wildfires that can lead to disaster. The mild spring has resulted in a proliferation of fine wildfire fuels like grass and underbrush. As these fuels dry out they present an extreme hazard allowing fires to start easily and spread 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 proximity of homes to forested areas.

Pender Island Fire Rescue will be focused on wildfire prevention, education and early response over the next few months. This spring we are already seeing homes threatened by wildfires in BC and Alberta. In May, more than 80 people were forced out of their homes because of a wildfire near Prince George and the Dahl Lake and Bobtail Mountain provincial parks were closed and campers evacuated.

It will take a concerted effort to ensure we are not faced with a similar situation on the Penders. What does that concerted effort look like? It means we need your help to educate your neighbors and visitors. It means we need you to immediately report; unattended fires, careless behaviours that might cause fires and any smoke of unknown origin. Early reporting and response is essential. It means you will endeavor to keep your homes fire safe inside and out because house fires start wildfires and vice versa. It means your smoke alarms are working and you know to get out and call 911 immediately. Evacuating an island is a challenge we will do everything in our power to avoid.

We get lots of complaints of smoking materials on the sides of the road. If you see someone throwing a cigarette butt from a vehicle please get the licence plate number, stop your car in a safe place and put the butt out, then call RCMP.

Fines for this behaviour run up to $2,000 and if a fire is started all costs for response can be billed to the perpetrator. Don’t take no for an answer from the 911 RCMP operator. Our Detachment commander and local RCMP members are committed to help us stop this behaviour. They will follow up on your calls if you leave a message at 250-629-6171.

As a preventive measure we will again be delivering our SGI Wildfire Prevention Program this year at the BC Ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. We will also be at the Farmers Market and other venues over the high risk season. Deputy Chief Mike Dine will be at the helm again spreading our message that fire prevention awareness is our best defence.

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 fire signs, 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 prevail: If it looks dangerous or unsafe it probably is; call 911 immediately and let a professional dispatcher make the decision about an appropriate response; the best way to get emergency medical help is to call 911 because doctors are not at the clinic 24/7; if we can’t find you we can’t help you so make sure your street address is visible day and night; house fires can spark wildfires so use the checklist on our website to see how yours measures up and how you can prevent fires from starting.

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. When you 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.

Until next month stay safe folks.

Fire Chief Charlie Boyte


Forest Fire Threat Level

Burning is permitted
Permit is required
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member

Paul Hutcheson

First Responder
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Support Crew

PIFR Members Only

For any Emergency:

call 911

Non-Emergency:

250 629-3321

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