Frequently Asked Questions

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)

When should I call the Fire Department?

You should call the Fire Department whenever you feel that you and / or your community are in danger.

Call 911 if the danger is imminent.

Call the Fire Dispatch 1-888-574-1959 and page out the on duty Fire Officer if the danger is low.

When fire risk is EXTREME or HIGH

Can residents use a weed eater?


Residents can use their weed eaters when the weeds are green. We recommend not using metal disk blades during high and extreme fire conditions.

Can farmers harvest their hay fields?


During High and Extreme Fire Conditions special fire prevention measures may be required. We recommend if it is not a critical job, hold off haying until the fire danger decreases.

Is excavating a high-risk activity?


As long as the excavation is being done on rock, dirt or mineral soil. Examples of acceptable excavating work could be construction sites, septic tank installation, driveway work etc. Logging and Land Clearing activities are not acceptable activities during Extreme Fire Conditions.

Can I use my gas powered Pressure Washer?


Gas powered pressure washers may be used during High and Extreme Fire conditions. We recommend placing the device on a non - combustible surface.

Can I use my gas powered leaf blower?


Gas powered leaf blower may be used during High and Extreme Fire conditions.

Do I need a permit just to burn yard waste?

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.

If I have a burning barrel, can I use it year round?

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.

How do I know what kind of yard work is banned during the summer?

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.

How do I decide if an emergency is serious enough to call 911 rather than just calling the fire department?

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.

How will you find my house in an emergency?

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.

How do I know if my driveway is accessible to fire trucks?

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.

Is there enough water to fight a fire in my neighbourhood?

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.

What do all the firefighters do when there are no calls?

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.

Seems like we pay a lot of taxes for fire protection, where does all the money go?

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.


How does the service we get, and the price we pay, compare to other similar communities?

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.

The complete report

What does PIFR proactively do to prevent fires, or to minimize their impact if they do occur?

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.


Do we send fire fighters, or PIFR First Responders, on calls that could be handled by BC Ambulance?

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.

We work closely with the crew at BCAS to give residence the best service possible.

How good are our responders? Do they really know what they are doing?

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.

  • 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.

Who runs Pender Island Fire Rescue? Is anybody accountable to the community?

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.

Pender Island Fire Rescue

4423 Bedwell Harbour Road
Pender Island, BC V0N 2M1

Phone: 250-629-3321

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