With many of the Coastal Fire Region fire fighters deployed to the interior, some may be wondering what happens when fires break out in our region. This release from the provincial ministry talks about that and also provides some insight into how initial attacks take place.
Tonight is your last night to enjoy a campfire as the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource have closed all open burning as of noon on Thursday the 6th of July. Starting on Thursday evening only propane campfires will be allowed.
Call the fire hall at 250.335.2611 or the fire patrol at 250.703.1792 if you have any questions or concerns.
Forestry crews are battling two fires fairly close to home. There is a big one at Harrison Lake (pictured to the right)and a smaller one at the bottom of Blackcomb Mountain. Both were human started.
The grass up on Mount Geoffrey is still green but things are starting to get a crispy. Safe and small campfires are still allowed but please use caution. If there is an onshore wind then consider a campfire at one of the beaches on the other side of the island. Be safe!
Albini, Scott, Sasha, and Quana installed four new fire rings on the non-park section of Tribune Bay beach today. The rings have been proven to be an excellent way to keep the beach fires in the same locations. They also limit the size of the campfires and reduce the chance of fires spreading into the logs at the head of the beach.
The Fire Patrol crew is out every night during the summer investigating fire concerns and making sure that everyone is enjoying a safe camp fire. If someone appears vulnerable due to intoxication at a beach gathering our Fire Patrol often provides a helping hand. They carry Naloxone kits and have the training to administer them.
It’s not an easy job but the relationship building and the public education that Albini, Scott, and Quana bring make it look effortless.
We use the Forest Fire Danger forecasting station at Bowser for our region as it’s the closest one to us. If anything, Bowser is a bit more damp that Hornby and the forecasts are calling for the danger class to move to “high” on Monday. If that happens, we will be closing the season for backyard burns and any open permits will be cancelled, including any category 3 permits.
In early April HIFR got word that Air Ambulance were ceasing night operations to Hornby Island due to safety concerns. We immediately realized the significant negative effect that would have on the well being of our community and got to work. When representatives of Helijet and BC Ambulance flew in to talk a week later, we not only had a solid plan, but we had already mitigated some of their concerns.
Three significant changes were made in the way that we’ve conducted night time helicopter operations:
- We changed the landing zone location, which required fixing up an old access road.
- We purchased 22 portable landing lights and are investigating funding to offset the significant purchase price.
- We reprogrammed a number of our radios to better communicate with the incoming helicopter.
On our May 18 fire practice we did a trial run where we set up our new landing zone system.
Helijet was able to free up a helicopter just before midnight and flew up to check out our improvements. There are still a few tweaks to make the system better, but we’ve just received notice that night operations are back!
A good number of people helped make this happen:
- Dan Hamilton had just done a full day of tree work when I called him to help remove a few trees from our access road. He didn’t hesitate to help and I met him 20 minutes later to start the work. Dan refused payment for that work.
- Stani, our Depot Manager, let us dump several truck loads of slash from the clearing free of charge.
- BC Ambulance and Helijet have been extremely responsive in helping us restore this important service. They gave us detailed guidelines, lent us landing zone lights, and have flown up here twice to help plan and test.
- Chris Lefevre, who owns the land and built the airstrip, has been so incredibly generous with allowing us to not only use the airstrip, but has given us free reign to make changes to improve safety and access.
- The firefighters of HIFR who gave up a weekend to clear the access road and haul away slash… and who also waited until past midnight on our practice night to get the pilot feedback… and who also will come out any day or night, no matter the time or weather, to set up the landing zone and shuttle medical crew and patient between the landing zone and the clinic.
Every year HIFR is asked to investigate several abandoned 911 calls. We’ve already done two this year. These are the most risky calls that we do and we sometimes flat out refuse to attend. We just never know what is happening. It could be a heart attack or a home invasion… A fire or a domestic dispute with a weapon.
I was sorting though a bunch of papers in the office today and came across this gem from 1990. I’m not sure who took it. Most of our photos around here were taken by Bob Cain but this doesn’t have his stamp on it. I hope it may serve as a reminder to ensure that your camp fires are out when you leave them. We don’t want a repeat of that event anywhere on Hornby, ever again.
Chief Doug Chinnery and Deputy Chief Quana Parker met at the Lefevre airstrip with representatives of Helijet and BC Ambulance to discuss safety and efficiency improvements for night time air evacuations. There were three main concerns:
- lack of appropriate landing zone lights
- unavailable communication channels between the agencies
- inability of HIFR to get trucks close enough to the landing zone in the wet months
We believe that we have hammered out solutions to all of the problems:
- We have procured a loan of portable landing zone lights until we can purchase our own.
- We are reprogramming our portable radios to access the appropriate frequencies.
- We will be brushing out an old access road and bringing in some gravel to get us closer to where the pilots want to land.
Once we have all the concerns addressed we will do a practice to ensure that all of the systems can be deployed efficiently. Helijet will then schedule a practice run where we will run through a multi agency practice run testing out all aspects of the new procedures.
Huge thanks to the four great folks that came up to ensure that night time air evacs are as safe as they can be. Also, thanks to Ken Craig of BC Ambulance for the loan of the landing zone lights. And special thanks, as always, to Chris Lefevre for his extremely generous gift to our community… the use of his air strip for medical emergencies.
The entire Hornby community is invited to Giff’s retirement party on May 13th at noon. We’d love to host everyone at the new fire hall but we’re not sure that it’ll be ready so… the old fire hall is the location. There’ll be cake, tea, coffee, and some finger foods although if you have something that you can contribute we’d be very appreciative. Please come and help us honour Giff’s many years of dedicated public service.