Trail Maintenance in the 707 and Cox Parks

Sometime over the next couple of weeks employees of the RDN and the BC Wildfire service will be maintaining some of the trails in the 707 and Cox parks. At one time these former logging roads were kept open by use from locals. Since becoming parks and being gated, these access roads quickly become overgrown. Emergency crews need to be able to get into various areas of these parks for any fire or medical responses which therefore requires workers with chainsaws and a chipper to remove any overgrowth before any emergency manifests. Workers will be clearly identified by their brightly coloured safety apparel. Some trails may be temporarily closed while any dangerous work is being performed.

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Canadian Fallen Firefighter’s memorial

I was in Ottawa over the holidays and made the point of stopping in to see the Canadian Fallen Firefighter’s memorial. In 2006 we lost one our Gabriola firefighters, Tom Upton, during a training exercise in Comox when he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. The Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation was formed to honour and remember our fallen firefighters and support their families. The foundation collected bronze hose fittings from fire departments across Canada to be melted down and used to create the statue at the memorial. The Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department donated to this.

It was a sobering in to see all of the names on this memorial of other firefighters who have given their lives to firefighting. Another thought I had was each of these people left behind family members. Tom left behind a son and wife. These firefighters sacrifice work and family to dedicate themselves to firefighting.

(Click on any image to see a larger version of it.)

PLEASE!

PLEASE!! Please ensure your smoke alarms are less than 10 years old and are functioning properly. If you are not sure or are unable to check, we will check them for you. Just call us. Few things can wreak havock on a small community like this situation, so please help to ensure it never happens here.

From CTV: Space heaters caused Vacouver fire that killed toddler.

Space heaters caused a fire that killed a sleeping toddler and injured her twin sister, older brother and mother, fire officials said Friday.

The home also did not have working smoke alarms, said Fire Chief John McKearney. [continue]

The Great Outage of 2016

The alleged crane

The alleged crane

So, as of this writing, it appears to be settled. The tug towing the too tall crane on a barge that took out the power lines over Dodds Narrows did not drag an anchor and take out an undersea cable – and all of our phone and data lines. Those lines were overhead, and went crashing down along with our power lines

Nevertheless, it was a major awakening to everyone here, as every service on the island was affected. With landline phones not able to reach any off island numbers and many local numbers, and our notoriously inadequate local cell service further compromised by the power outage, people found their ability to reach out was non-existent for most part.

The partial solution that was able to be provided by the GVFD was to man the Firehall, 24 hrs a day until all the systems were up again. The firehall still had the radio communications to reach the dispatchers in Nanaimo, who would forward info as required to and from other agencies, such as the BC Ambulance dispatch. This of course, resulted in a situation were, as a last resort, someone would need to physically come to the Firehall to call for help.

We all owe a big thank you to Paul Giffin and Rich Williams, two of our Gabriola Emergency Communications group, who also work in alliance with the Coastal Emergency Communications group. They did the lions share of manning the hall for all these days and nights. The GEC radio room, established in the lower level of the new Firehall has proven to be a great asset for our community!

Now that things are back to normal, I think it would be a great time for the community to overview how people were affected, beyond the obvious, and see what practical solutions could be enacted to help improve the situation for the next time. A good start would be to learn about our Neighbourhood emergency planning and our Emergency Social Services programs. Neighbours helping neighbours. They have many thoughtful, time tested considerations on how to help survive more comfortably during such an episode.

We were lucky this time, as the weather was relatively warm. But that accident could have just as easily happened during a cold and blustery January storm, when helicopters couldn’t fly for a week or more, to repair the damage. We all need to be ready for that one.

Hallowe’en Fireworks, 2016

This year our annual fireworks show will be on Sunday, October 30th, at 7pm. That’s the night before Hallowe’en – we hope this will be super convenient for little goblins and their parents.

Children of all ages, please join us at Gabriola Sands Provincial Park (Twin Beaches) on Sunday, October 30th, 2016. The show starts at 7 pm.

We will have the bonfire blazing for you, and our fireworks will light up the sky. Come in costume, if you like!

Firefighters will be serving hot dogs and hot chocolate. There will be candy for trick-or-treaters.

Please support this event by putting money in our Hallowe’en fireworks boots. You’ll see them at some Gabriola businesses, and at the event. You might find firefighters asking for donations in the ferry line-up, too, or elsewhere in on Gabriola. Please contribute so that we afford to buy fireworks and other supplies.

Want to be a Gabriola firefighter?

We have some openings for a few more firefighters. Would you like to join us?

The Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department is a friendly and welcoming organization. We provide all necessary training to the same NFPA standards as big city departments, and we’re ready to help new applicants become competent members of our team.

If you join us you will learn to fight fires, deal with motor vehicle incidents (jaws of life, etc), help during situations that require rope rescue, and a lot more. You’ll learn to operate fire trucks, and will upgrade your driving license to class 3 with air brakes endorsement. Once you have mastered all of these skills, you have the option to train as a first responder.

We hope you’ll consider applying if:

  • You live on Gabriola Island, you’ve been here a while (at least a year) and you plan to stay on the island.
  • You’re in good health, and reasonably fit.
  • You have a class 5 (or higher) driving license
  • You can come to training sessions from 7 to about 10 on Tuesday nights. (Sometimes there are additional sessions as well, like weekend-long courses.)
  • You’re eager to learn new skills.
  • You are willing to study written material and take exams.
  • You’re trustworthy, honest, and kind.
  • You’re ready for a long-term commitment- we hope our members stay for many years.
  • You can respond (most of the time) to emergencies when the pager goes off.

If you’re interested, please call our office (250-247-9677) and arrange to fill out an application form. We’ll check your driving record, and make sure that the police have no record of you doing bad stuff. We’ll ask you for several references.

If you look like a good match for us, we’ll ask you to come and meet our officers for an interview.

We’re planning to start a class for new firefighters in January, so you’d start with that, on Tuesday nights.

All training costs are covered, and our department pays an hourly stipend for most training sessions and for callouts once you have achieved a certain training level and are issued a pager.

For more details, see these pages on our website:

You’ve always wanted to be a firefighter? This is your chance!

Smoke investigation reveals structure fire

At 06:13 this morning a concerned citizen smelled smoke in the air and called 911 to report it. The duty officer responded to investigate, and was surprised to see a home with flames burning on the front deck. The duty officer yelled to wake up the family sleeping inside while attacking the fire with an extinguisher. The cause of the fire appears to have been a cigarette that was placed in a paint bucket filled with sand. Apparently the container wasn’t made of metal like all paint cans used to be, but made of plastic- which was a surprise to the home owner- as all that remained of it was the metal ring from around the top.

Thanks to the vigilance of a neighbour, the damage to the home was contained to a small area of the deck, and undoubtedly prevented a much more serious situation from evolving.image

Fire ban information clarification

My apologies to those who found this site confusing when searching for the current fire ban status. The notice of a fire ban being in effect was further down the thread than it perhaps should have been.

The level indicator to the right, currently in red and reading HIGH is hyperlinked, when you click on it it opens another page with the explanations. The current status indicating a ‘FIRE BAN IS CURRENTLY IN EFFECT’ is now more prominent.

As an FYI, we promptly remove the NO FIRE signs when the ban is rescinded, so, if they are up, the ban is still in effect.

This is the first year we have instituted a season long fire ban, and it appears the desired effect has been achieved. Burn complaints, rekindled fires and the attending costs appear to be down significantly. Most of the people I have talked to about this new policy agree that it makes sense, when compared with the previous method of banning and rescinding open burning based on a bit of rainfall. The cleaner air is also a nice payback in the view of many people as well.

Should you smell smoke, please investigate its source, as the recent structure fire could have been avoided if it had been detected an hour or so before.

While propane and briquet BBQs, hibatchis, and fireplaces are not included in the ban, they must be used with the utmost care and have fire precautions in place.

The fire hazard level and any prohibitions can also be heard by calling 250-247-9677 for the recorded message.

Thank you to all for your conscientiousness in helping to keep Gabriola safe!

 

August 1st structure fire

This morning we were paged to a structure fire at 8:26 am. Gabriola firefighters responded quickly, and almost all of our members were on scene in a matter of minutes.

The fire was on Samson and Dunshire. It began in a plastic garbage can, which contained items that were left-over from a house-painting project. Those items began to smoulder, then finally burst into flame. (This sort of spontaneous combustion is common when oil-and other some other chemical soaked rags are involved.) The garbage can was against a shed, which then caught fire, and quickly spread the flames to nearby trees.

The fire then spread to the neighbouring house, which was saved, but sustained significant damage from flames climbing the wall and entering the attic space.

All of this was determined by watching the security cam footage from the scene.

This is a good time to remind community members about these key points:

  1. Oil-soaked rags, or rags left over from painting projects should not go into a garbage can. They should be stored in a metal container, away from anything flamable, until they can be safely disposed of. Piles of chipped trees also have been known to spontaneously combust, and should be spread out 6″ deep, and or the piles monitored.
  2. If you smell smoke in your neighbourhood, go and investigate. Try to find the source of the smoke. If you can’t find the fire but you smell smoke (in summer when fires are banned on the island) call 911 so that we can come and help find the fire.
  3. This was a classic example of a tree spreading fire to another structure, and is the reason we ask people to ‘Fire Smart’ their properties to create defensible spaces.

It’s better to call us than to wonder just where that smoke smell is coming from. Today some people reported smelling smoke way before the smouldering items burst into flame. If they had traced the source of the smoke, or called us, it is likely this fire could have been extinguished before it spread beyond the garbage can.

Here are a couple of photos from this fire. Click on either one if you’d like to see a larger version.

Gabriola’s role in Exercise Coastal Response

The exercise called Coastal Response has now concluded. This was the largest simulated emergency exercise ever held in the Province. The scenario was a magnitude 9 earthquake off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Multiple agencies participated in the event some of which were Provincial Government agencies, the Canadian Forces, the Salvation Army, other Federal Government agencies and amateur radio. In addition to British Columbia the US states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho also participated in the US drill called Cascadia Rising.

Due to the fact that Port Alberni “went dark” for 24 hours after the event communications needed to be established. “ Going Dark” means all the usual forms of communications, cell phones, telephone lines, satellite phones suffer degradation causing the loss of communications. To assist with communications amateur radio stations were set up at the Emergency Operations Centre, the “Mass Casualty Centre,” the Reception Centres, the “temporary residence” and the food centre. All of these stations were in Port Alberni. In addition amateur radio stations outside the affected area were established. Locally the Nanaimo Emergency Operations Centre and the Gabriola Fire Hall emergency communications centre were activated.

The Nanaimo and Gabriola stations established contact with the Provincial Regional Emergency Communications Centres of Emergency Management British Columbia in Victoria and Kamloops.

The Nanaimo station was stood down around noon on day one after it was determined there was “no local damage from the initial event or aftershocks” The Gabriola station remained active all day on day one. Activity resumed on day two until the evening of day two when communications in Port Alberni were “reestablished” The Gabrola station became a central hub for digital communications between Port Alberni and the Operations Centre in Victoria. and on the evening of day two coordinated two different communications check ins involving amateur radio stations from around the Province.

A total of four radio operators were active in the Gabriola Station during this event.

The Gabriola station continues to look for volunteers to assist with the operations of the station. They are also in need of funds to purchase equipment in order that assistance can be provided to Gabriola Island and others.

If you are interested in become part of this group please send an email to va7mpg@gmail.com

Your home can survive a wildfire

The wildfire situation in northern Alberta right now is horrifying, and it reminds us of how awful a wildland fire can be. What can we do to protect ourselves from wildfire on Gabriola?

One important place to start is at home. The (US) National Fire Protection Agency offers essential information in this video.

Wildfire hazard rating escalates

As our island gets dryer, our wildfire hazard rating climbs, and further restrictions are enacted. At this writing we are at High Regular shift, but are anticipating a further raising of the hazard rating to High Early shift this week. All of the definitions and restrictions can be found on the wildfire hazard ratings of our website, gabriolafire.ca.

At these next higher levels ALL outdoor burning is banned, but propane and briquet BBQs and Hibatchis, as well as propane fireplaces ( 6″ flame maximum) are still allowed. Great care must be taken and fire fighting precautions must be at hand.

Most forms of powered equipment usage stops at 1 pm and a full hour of observation (watchman) is mandatory following any work.

If you spot a situation that concerns you, call the GVFD Duty Officer at 250-755-9289 in real time to investigate.

If you are not able to connect due to our poor cell service, call 911 and ask the operator to page the Gabriola fire department duty officer for you.

Should you see some idiot throwing cigarette butts from a vehicle, take down the license plate and car description, location etc, and report it to the RCMP ASAP.

While we await Emcon’s mower to arrive to cut the grass on the road sides, be aware that parking your vehicle in such dry grass could result in a serious fire from your hot exhaust. An exhaust system that is damages or even a trailer safety chain dragging on the ground can throw a shower of sparks as well, and numerous serious fires have been started in BC from these forms of carelessness over the years.

Carrying a dry chemical 5 lb. ABC fire extinguisher in your car during this dry season is a very good idea. (We sell good quality fire extinguishers at our cost at the firehall. Call us at 250-247-9677 if you’d like to buy one.)

Your actions could make the difference between a scary situation and a disaster. Always have someone call 911 and report a fire as soon as you see one – before deciding if it is safe to attempt extinguishing it. This gives an earlier heads up to us and gets our fire trucks rolling more quickly.

Gabriola’s safety is in all of our hands, and firefighters really appreciate your assistance.

Overdose? We’ve got Naloxone!

If you’d been at the firehall on Tuesday night, you would have seen most of our first responders, and a lot of syringes.

We were learning to administer injections of the drug called Naloxone. After completing our training and passing our exams, we are now licensed by BC Emergency Health Services to administer Naloxone when it is needed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

So if your neighbour has taken too much of an opioid painkiller, or if somebody down the block took heroin or fentanyl and cannot be roused, Naloxone can be part of what saves that person’s life.

Here’s a reminder from BC Emergency Health Services: Don’t hesitate to call 911 for a suspected opioid overdose.

No.1 firehall re-named in honour of Albert Reed

Albert J. Reed was involved with the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District for almost 20 years, 18 years as an elected Trustee.

During this time Albert semi-retired from his life long career as an internationally respected electrical engineer, specializing in high voltage and power technologies, and returned to University to earn a master’s degree in fire protection and chemical engineering.

His thesis for that degree was based on ‘Fire Protection on Gabriola’ and was to establish a long term plan for our department to follow.

By following that plan our department was able to develop into an outstanding example of community fire protection, becoming the second volunteer fire department west of Ontario to earn the Superior Tanker Shuttle accreditation. This means we have the equivalent to fire hydrants on every corner, but with the firefighting water delivered to the scene by tankers.

This status saves our residents more money in insurance premiums than they pay in fire protection taxes.

Five (5) years later we re-certified, this time becoming the first volunteer fire department west of Ontario to earn our commercial property owners a similar insurance savings.

Even though these unprecedented accomplishments were directly tied to the guidance he provided, Albert was never one to take the credit. He was truly a big picture guy who always championed the team effort.

Albert certainly was a people person. Throughout his life he constantly encouraged discussions that lead to more diverse points of view, often changing peoples perspectives and attitudes. Whether it was during his career involvement with B.C. Hydro, Ontario Hydro, the National Research Council in Ottawa, the Boy Scouts, his church, our Fire Department, or any of the other causes he donated his life to, he would persevere with his hallmark kindness to ensure the best possible outcomes manifested for every situation he was involved with.

He was sincere in his fondness for people and his belief in humanity, and this was, no doubt, why he was so willing to involve himself in situations others might shy away from.

His dedication to our department and to the firefighters, was well known. Often when a call-out was in progress he would drop by the hall, turning off any car lights or flashers that the firefighters may have left on in their haste to respond. Just another small example of his caring and helpfulness.

Today’s re-dedication of this hall is with the hope of keeping Albert’s humanitarianism alive in our consciousness, to encourage others to see life with his “glass half full” perspective, and to be reminded of his boundless optimism – not just within the Fire Department but throughout his life. On behalf of the firefighters, trustees, as well as everyone who knew and loved him, I am truly honoured to rename this building the Albert J. Reed Memorial Firehall.

No address sign? $1000 fine.

Effective immediately, the Regional District of Nanaimo will be levying a fine of $1000 against the title of any property that doesn’t have an adequate address sign displayed next to the property’s primary access point. ‘Adequate’ means visible day or night by a vehicle approaching from either direction.

Emergency responders have long spoken of the frustration of trying to find the location of situations they have been paged to attend to, often dangerously delaying help to those in need. Repeated requests in the media appear to have fallen on deaf ears, so this drastic measure has been invoked to ensure compliance.

We would like to thank RDN Area B director Howard Houle for his diligence in this matter and for ensuring that enforcement would begin by today.

About the search for Dave Hepper

The search and rescue (SAR) operation looking for Gabriola Island resident Dave Hepper ended last Wednesday, March 23rd. SAR command reported that the official search and rescue volunteers spent more than 1738 hours on this search. 112 of these hours were put in by Gabriola firefighers, who assisted search teams on the first evening until the early hours of Monday morning. Probably another 30+ hours were put in by GVFD members that is not reflected in that total.

SAR teams performed an intensive search over a wide area that was considered the most likely place for Dave to be found. They also searched many more places that were not-so-likely, but needed to be checked anyway.

These volunteer teams came to Gabriola to help in the search:

Up to 60 SAR personnel per day were involved in the search. Many island residents were also searching. These ‘convergent’ volunteers, as the non-SAR people are known, were mostly not registered and their hours not accounted for, but I believe the estimated 200 people would have accrued a much higher number of hours while searching. They were asked to not enter the primary grid search area and to concentrate on areas such as the 707 park. (Due to BC’s safety regulations, SAR members must take 100 hours of basic training courses before being able to participate in searches.)

The total man-hour figure does not include the time spent by the RCMP, helicopter and fixed wing searches, the harbour patrol boat and coast guard auxiliary that dropped off beach searching personnel. The aircraft and harbour patrol boats are equipped with the latest FLIR (heat detecting) cameras, which were used during the searches. Gertie volunteers assisted by driving searchers to the various areas that they were assigned to cover.

A team from Gabriola Emergency Social Services prepared many meals for the searchers in the fire hall kitchen over the 3 days, spending about 95 hours in the process. Food was also donated by Gabriolans to support the SAR teams.

This was probably the biggest inter-agency operation in Gabriola history.

In spite of the extensive search, much of it in heavy rain in the dark forest, Dave was not found by the searchers, but by friends the following day. Conditions had improved and the bright sunshine revealed his body about 40m off of a trail in an area that had been searched during the previous days. Search dogs had been deployed in the area but the heavy rains and prevalent human scent apparently covered the tracks.

Dave’s body was recovered on the evening of Thursday, March 24, bringing a sad end to this story. Based on evidence they compiled, the RCMP believes that Dave passed away early on Sunday, before the search had even started.

During a debriefing at SARs headquarters in Nanaimo on March 29, maps with all the GPS search tracks were shown to reveal the extent of the search – and the fact that searchers had come so close to Dave’s location without detecting him. A discussion of what went right – mostly everything – vs what didn’t revealed the depth of care these people extend to these endeavors. Their disappointment at the outcome was obvious.

What they also said at the debriefing revealed a lot about our community. They have never experienced the level of community support that they did here. From the food donated to various businesses not charging them for supplies to people paying for their meals in restaurants they were overwhelmed at the generosity. In spite of the sad outcome, we have a lot to be proud of as a community.

I would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to help search for our fellow islander.

A final note: the SAR team members who searched for Dave are volunteers. They spend a significant amount of time and effort in taking courses, practicing and developing search expertise… and, of course, using their skills when a search is needed. When they are called, they leave their homes, families, pets, and jobs, dropping everything to help as much as they can. As if that isn’t enough, they often have to do significant fund-raising to buy the equipment they need.

If you’d like to show your appreciation for the immense effort these teams made in coming to Gabriola and searching for Dave, please consider making a donation to help support them. Any funds you give will help to ensure that teams are properly equipped for future searches. The names of the SAR teams who helped us are above; click a team name to visit the team’s website, where you will probably see a donation link.

Our nearest search and rescue team and the lead agency in this search is Nanaimo Search and Rescue. Their website links to this page at Canada Helps, where you can donate, if you wish. A receipt for income tax purposes will be provided.

Boat fire at Page’s Marina

boat-burned-pagesYesterday we responded to a boat fire at Page’s Marina.

Luckily no one at the scene opened the boat up. If that had been done fresh air would have fed the fire, allowing it to grow in size before fire crews were prepared to extinguish it. The fire was determined to be of an electrical origin, and smoke was venting from various locations. Once a charged hoseline was in place we ventilated the interior, and an attack crew entered to locate and extinguish the fire.

boat-fire-pages-marina-syreeta-kyle

This photo shows firefighter Syreeta Caron (left), preparing to go down to the dock as part of the fire attack team. She has donned SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) and a lifejacket. Firefighter Kyle Clifford is doing the “buddy check” – checking Syreeta to make sure she has no exposed skin.

Christmas Food and Toy Drive, 2015

It’s nearly time for the GVFD’s 4th Annual Food & Toy Drive!

On Sunday, December 6th, the GVFD will place wrapped totes around Gabriola to collect your food and toy donations. Then, at 5pm, we will begin our drive around the island in our decorated fire trucks to collect the totes. Please check the posted maps and schedules to see where/when we will be stopping in your neighborhood. We’d love for you to come and meet us and give us your donation in person. We’ll have Christmas music and candy canes!

Everything we collect will be passed along to PHC for distribution to fellow Gabriolans in need.

Thank you for your continued support.

Update

The toy drive went very well, in spite of being the proverbial dark and stormy night. While the crowds were not large, the donation boxes were stuffed! Bill and Dimitri delivered the loot to the PHC, and it appears to be even bigger than last year. We will update later with that info.

Thanks Gabriola for supporting us in this endeavour. Our FF’s enjoy undertaking it  as well.

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