A late September reprieve

Over the last couple of days the fire danger rating has decreased to the point where high risk activities are now allowed again. However a total fire ban remains in effect until we have a little more forgiving weather.

If you do start using your chainsaw, please use extra caution and consider having a bucket of water or a spray can on hand while you work.

Clarifying the Campfire Ban

You may have heard or read the news that the Coastal Fire Centre is removing the campfire ban in our area. This is certain to cause some confusion because we will not be removing the campfire ban on Hornby Island.

The simple explanation of our bylaw is that we can be MORE conservative than the province, but we can’t be LESS conservative. If the Province puts in a restriction, then we have to follow it. If they remove a restriction, we are not obligated to follow.

When I look at the closest observation stations to our area (Cedar, Bowser, Quinsam) they are all at extreme fire hazard and are forecasted to stay there for the rest of the week. When I add in how little rain we had last week, I believe it would be irresponsible to remove the campfire ban.

As always, if you see a wood fire, please call 911 to report it. Propane fires are allowed, as are fires in a wood stove in your house. If you are lighting up your woodstove, first have a look at your gutters and make sure that they aren’t filled with dry material ready to catch on fire from an errant spark.

High Risk Activity Ban Lifted

Effective 0800 on Saturday, Sept 16, the ban on high-risk activities has been lifted. This follows the lowering of the fire danger rating two levels to “moderate”. A total fire ban remains in effect. If the fire danger rating goes back to extreme and stays there for three days, the high risk activity restrictions will go back in effect.

New Panic Button

We have added a new way of calling for help. If you are near the fire hall experiencing an emergency and need assistance, you can hit the new panic button at our front door. The button is tied into our monitored alarm system and will result in a duty officer being paged for an unknown emergency at the fire hall.

Response time will be 5-15 minutes. There are no sounds or flashing lights indicating that anything is happening, but the messages and pages happen very quickly.

Heavy Vehicle Incident

This morning a concrete mixer ended up on its side on Central Road. The incident happened when the driver moved the truck to the right of the road, concerned about oncoming traffic. The very soft shoulder grabbed his tire, sloughed away and put him into a deep ditch. No injuries were reported.

Two minor oil leaks into the ditch were mitigated by fire crews and no environmental damage occurred. Company representatives were on scene within an hour to organize a vehicle extraction operation, including an environmental hazard response team on scene. Our appreciation goes out to the ready-mix company for their incredibly quick, environmentally responsible, and compassionate response.

To anyone held up by the road closure, thanks for your patience.

Promotions

One of my favourite parts of this job is advancing rookies up to the rank of firefighter. That event usually follows two years of training, six hours of practical exams, and a two-hour written test. The practical exam covers portable pump operations and troubleshooting, deploying attack lines, putting equipment back in service, ropes, knots, hoisting, ladders, and many other skills.

I’m pleased to announce that Innes Hood, Alex Ortwein, and Ian Graboski have been promoted to “firefighter”. Their commitment to our team and our island community is inspiring.

Newest Addition to the Fleet

We were fortunate to be approved to receive a $12,000 grant from the Red Cross for community resilience. We took advantage of that grant by purchasing a new cargo trailer to store and transport our structure protection equipment.

We can use this equipment to protect houses in the path of an oncoming wildfire and includes things like sprinklers, hoses, pumps, fittings, and portable ponds. The trailer can be taken to a neighbourhood, and the equipment deployed to prevent structures from being set on fire by sparks and firebrands.

There will be a bunch of work to build shelving and custom storage racks, but we hope to have it fully in service by the summer fire season. It will spend its time here on Hornby but could be deployed for short periods to help out our neighbours on Denman, or in extreme cases, on Vancouver Island.

Big thanks to the Red Cross, the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC, and the CVRD staff for helping with the application and licensing process.