Chief Charlie Boyte's report for September 2012

Michael Boyle

As I write the temperature has topped 38 at the back of Fire Hall #1. I have just raised the wildfire threat to “Extreme” and I have to admit the hair on my arms stands up when conditions get like this.

Hopefully by the time this article is appears it will have cooled down. If not, I hope you have all been paying attention to our fire prevention crew at Swartz Bay. In this weather one small spark can spell disaster so please remain vigilant and report any smoke or fire immediately through 911.

Over the five years we have offered the Swartz Bay Wildfire Prevention Program we have seen a 30 per cent plus reduction in smoke and fire related calls on the Southern Gulf Islands. A big thanks for great work goes to Deputy Chief Mike Dine and the prevention crews who endure the smoking hot ferry terminal to keep us safe.

Island residents are doing their bit as well. We are receiving 911 calls promptly and that allows us to react quickly. Don’t be shy folks, if it looks dangerous it probably is. Make that call.

As of August 17 we have attended 110 emergency calls. At 12:37 a.m. August 13 we were called to a structure fire at the house of one of our own. The 911 call reported smoke and fire and included detail that seldom comes with an initial report. The fire was in the home of a long serving firefighter and he knew exactly the information we needed, especially that everyone was out of the house.

When our first crew arrived the house was full of black smoke banked down to within a few feet of the floor. Fortunately we had a good idea where the fire was and our crews did an exceptional job limiting fire damage to one room. However smoke damage was extensive. The fire was accidental, an overheated compressor in a stand up freezer.

The lesson here folks is to pull those freezers and fridges away from the wall periodically and make sure the mice have not moved in and deposited volumes of combustibles around the compressor and electrical components.

There was no luck involved in this scenario. The result was the product of effective, repeated training. The response time was less than 12 minutes for the first truck. That means when the pagers went off, a crew of five woke up, got out of their beds, dressed, drove to the fire hall, dressed in their fire gear, got into the fire truck, into their air packs and then drove to the call. They did this in less than the time most of us take to get from bed to the coffee pot in the morning. These people are truly amazing. All the training Deputy Chief Dine has been delivering is worth its weight in gold.

The firefighter said he was so glad his smoke alarm worked and that he slept with his bedroom door closed. Those two things saved him and his loved ones lives. Have you tested your smoke alarm lately? Did you know it’s the law to have a working smoke alarm in every building where someone may be sleeping? Do you have a plan to get out of your house that includes two exit routes? Do you know to stay low, get out and stay out? The simple fact is that fires happen despite our best care and caution. This knowledge and a working smoke detector may save your life if this happens to you.

We saved the home, but unfortunately the firefighter’s insurance had lapsed. Now, we have a firefighter that could use our help and we will be doing everything possible to make sure he gets it. We are fundraising to help our firefighter through this traumatic event. If you would like to contribute please give Debbie a ring at 250-629-3321 or drop in and make a donation at Fire Hall #1.

Until next month - stay safe.

Forest Fire Threat Level

Burning is permitted
No permit is required
Regulations apply


Brigitte Prochaska

First Responder

PIFR Members Only

For any Emergency:

call 911


250 629-3321


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