Marching in Support

On Jan 5 Al Cannon and I were in Enderby to convey Hornby Island Fire Rescue’s deep sadness in the death of Enderby firefighter Dan Botkin. We marched with over 1100 other firefighters in support of the Enderby Fire Department and a community mourning the tragic loss of one of their brightest stars.

The parade wound like a navy blue ribbon through 1KM of downtown streets lined with residents. The only sounds heard were the boots on the street and the pipers at the parade’s head… no cars… no busses… no voices. As we marched, the divisions between volunteer, paid, and auxiliary members melted away and we changed from an assembly to an association.

I saw the row of school kids who had been let out to watch the procession holding their colourful sign stating, “We salute our emergency workers” but was too emotional to acknowledge them. Same with the older gentleman who was unable to march but was standing along the route proudly wearing his long service medals.

Once at the arena, we entered in single file and filled the auditorium floor while the community members filled the stands. A moving service took place with some particularly powerful words from our Lieutenant Governor, Steven Point and two of Dan’s long time friends.

We travelled 11 hours each way in a cramped vehicle with 4 other firefighters, and at times on the way there I was wondering what I was doing it for. On the way home, though, I knew I would be willing to travel twice as far in worse conditions to experience again the pride and sense of belonging that I felt during that parade.

— Doug Chinnery

New Techniques

Firefighters are conditioned to reach for the water as soon as they arrive on scene. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Put water on the fire and it goes away. 5 of us went to a course last weekend where the instructor made a pretty convincing case that the ventilation fan should be the first thing off of the truck. The Comox Valley Chiefs Association brought in the guru of a technique that is quickly taking hold called “positive pressure attack”. Kriss Garcia has been championing, honing, and researching PPA for over 20 years now.

The idea goes like this. Fire is predictable and can be extinguished. Smoke, on the other hand, will obscure any visibility, will kill occupants, and can explode if conditions are right. If you can create an exhaust hole, and turn on a large fan at the front door you can clear the smoke and reduce the temperature in the building in just a few seconds. Firefighters can then enter a building and search for occupants and the fire by walking through the building instead of crawling.

Kriss has disproven many myths put forward by people wary of PPA. He has shown that blowing the smoke and heat through the building will not advance the fire. Firefighters that are caught between the fire and the exhaust hole feel no increase in heat. Positive pressure will not blow fire into electrical outlets or holes in the wall.

We’re very excited to try out this new technique in our upcoming practices. Its not everyday that you learn something that turns a whole industry’s methodology on its head.

Cloud Retires After 35 Years

David Cloud teaching pumps to Paula and Francis. Photo by Bob Cain - 1996

On a winter day in February 1976, wanting to help out his community,  David Cloud joined the Hornby Island Volunteer Fire Department. At that time there was a Chief and a Deputy Chief.  Cloud became the only firefighter. Since that day he has seen 10 chiefs come and go in his 35 years of service.

While Cloud’s contributions to the department were varied and numerous, his legacy will no doubt be remembered in three ways. He was the guy that brought the use of breathing apparatus to the department; he was the first trained medical responder and ushered in our current medical program; he pitched the idea of a local fire patrol and was the first patroller. All three of those programs are not only still a part of us, but are significant in defining our department.

BC Long Service Medal

In 2001, after 25 years of service, the Lieutenant Governor, Iona V. Campagnolo, came to Hornby Island to present David with the “British Columbia Long Service Medal ” to “… recognize the dedication and selflessness with which these individuals have served their community and this province in the protection of life and property.”

BC Long Service Bar

Just this year our chief, Giff LaRose, presented Cloud with the “British Columbia Long Service Bar” for his 35 years of service. Throughout his volunteering career with the fire department David felt he could contribute most effectively as a firefighter and he declined many offers to become an officer.

When thinking of how people give back, it is hard to come up with an example of dedication and giving as incredible as David Cloud’s. Thirty-five years of giving up at least one night a week, some weeks many more, demonstrates a commitment to the health and protection of  the community that is unparalleled.

When I asked Cloud if he had any parting thoughts for the department or for the community at large he responded by saying how pleased he was that the department has grown into the capable organization that it is. He says he feels great pride in being able to lay the foundation for what our department has become.

From all of us at HIFR, past members, and the community at large, thank you, David. You are an inspiration.

Search and Rescue Update

Hornby Island Fire Rescue, along with many other community members, has been involved in an intense ground search for Orlando Graham. The RCMP, 442 Squadron from CFB Comox, Canadian Coast Guard. the Rescue Coordination Center in Victoria, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue, and many other Search and Rescue (SAR) groups from Campbell River to Cowichan, have been searching the water and land since Wednesday night. At times there were upwards of 75 people working within the organized search plan and countless others searching on their own.

The response from the Hornby Island community has been every bit as generous as we’ve come to expect. The various SAR teams have been astounded by how well our island has looked after them and supported their efforts. We’re extremely proud of our island and particularly proud of our Fire Department. Our members absolutely shone in their assigned tasks, demonstrating professionalism, passion, and dedication to the job.

We can’t thank enough everyone who helped out, but there were some standouts. Valerie Pagnier came 4 times with batches of fresh baking and Mia Wood made lunch for 40 people. Rachelle Chinnery and Theresa Hamilton did a search detail, then worked the rest of Thursday and Friday coordinating food and coffee. Ian Emberton took time away from the new twins to transport food and to make a batch of cookies. Many other Islanders patiently waited to be assigned a search team and then diligently carried out their task.

Wilson Curry worked tirelessly all Thursday doing several search details. Then at the end of the day slipped on a rock and badly sprained his ankle. We wish him a speedy recovery and thank him for his hard work.

At this time the command structure of all of the involved organizations agree that any location where Orlando would be if he was injured or needing help has been exhaustively searched by both people and 4 dog teams. There is, however, no conclusive evidence to indicate what has happened to him. Please have a good look in any of your outbuildings, cabins, or structures.

The off island SAR teams have left and aren’t expected to return unless additional information or clues emerge. The RCMP will continue to comb the coastline from the water as well as exploring other investigative avenues. The Fire Department has stood down but is ready to start it all over again if something comes up.

All of our members, as well as the community at large, are extremely saddened by Orlando’s disappearance. Our hearts go out to Veronica, Renaud, and the rest of Orlando’s family.

Chief Giff LaRose
Deputy Chief Doug Chinnery

If you have any concerns or questions about the search please contact Doug at 218-9156 or Giff at 335.1115. We are happy to provide any information that we can.

Rookie Becomes Firefighter

We are proud to announce that Ian “Embers” Emberton has graduated from rookie to a full fledged firefighter. After putting in two years of training, practices, and public service since joining our department, Embers embarked on the daunting 3-evening task of challenging the firefighter exam.

The exam consists of 2 evenings of practical evaluations including portable pump operation, search and rescue scenarios, fire extinguisher proficiency, smoke ventilation, and proving that he can find and operate pretty much every piece of equipment in the fire hall or on the trucks. A third night is then spent writing an in-house exam dealing with Hornby Island specific items like water tank capacities, pump outputs, and our operational procedures.

Embers has shown an incredible amount of dedication to the department by coming to all call-outs and never missing a practice when he is on island. He adds much to the culture of the department and is quick to volunteer for department tasks.

Congratulations, Ian. We’re all proud to have you.