6th Annual GVFD Food & Toy Drive

This Sunday, December 3rd, is the 6th Annual GVFD Food & Toy Drive!  We hope you will all help make this holiday season a little better for fellow Gabriolans in need.  All proceeds will be passed along to PHC for distribution.  On Sunday, please stop by one of our many festive totes to drop off your donation.

The Drive will take place between 4:30-7pm.  The trucks will be decorated with lights, and we’ll have candy canes to hand out, so please come and say hi at one of our many stops.  You can also pass along your donation directly to us.

Village Food Market, as in past years, has already started off the Drive with a fantastic donation of 800lbs of fresh produce!  Here are some of our firefighters, along with Village Food Market staff, PHC volunteers, and even Santa unloading the delivery.

We hope to see lots of people out on Sunday!  PHC will be providing hot chocolate at the end of the Drive at Folk Life Village.  Come have a warm drink, say hi to the firefighters, check out the trucks, drop off your donation, and maybe even sing a Christmas carol or two.  It’s going to be FUN!

Bush Fire

This morning the GVFD responded to a bush fire call.  We discovered a pile of stacked firewood burning, and a smoldering fire working it’s way up the hill.  It appears that someone had a campfire about 2 days ago, and did not completely extinguish it.  The stacked firewood was piled very close to the camp fire, and the area was not cleared of combustible material.  This fire could have been avoided if the burning regulations had been followed.
As a reminder:
– Only small 1/2m fires are permitted at this time.
– Theses fires must have a 1m perimeter of non-combustible material, and must be a safe distance from any combustible growth or objects.
– Fires must be continuously attended.A charged hose or 20L pail of water and a shovel must be kept available.
– Any costs incurred for extinguishing a fire may be charged to the property owner if the fire resulted from carelessness or a disregard of the burning regulations.
The GVFD burning regulations are available on our website (http://gabriolafire.ca/burning/burning-regulations/), in the Gabriola Directory, and from the firehall.

Early morning workshop fire


Our dept was paged at 04:44 Tuesday morning to a fully involved structure fire. The initial report came in as a large fire across Degnen Bay but with no address. This was quickly followed by the actual address on Martin Rd. The duty officer was first on scene, followed soon by the pumper truck from hall 2. The DO confirmed the report of a fully involved fire, with fire spreading into the woods. He requested our dispatch to have BC Wildfire Service deploy a helicopter asap. This would take a while as it was still too dark to fly.

A fast initial attack was made on the flames impinging on the dump truck parked in front of the shop, allowing the owner to gain access and drive it away from the building. The hood and fenders on the drivers side had begun to melt from the intense heat.

Meanwhile other vehicles and manpower were arriving and were deployed to the best advantage by the DO. Our bush truck was sent to the rear of the building to attack the fire in the trees and undergrowth. Luckily those exposures were able to be quickly brought under control, and the BCWS response was cancelled.

Extinguishing the contents of the metal clad shop took many hours, as openings in the walls had to be cut out of the collapsing building to gain access to the flames. The last vehicles stood down around noon.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation at this time.

As always I’m very proud of our members, who almost seem to materializes out of thin air whenever they are needed the most!

20 years with the GVFD


Bill Sprogis completed 20 years with our fire dept this past July. He has participated in many an adventure over those years and no doubt will be attending many more. Thanks for being here, Bill!


 

Vehicle fire on Gray Road

If you saw fire trucks heading to the south of the island on July 4th, it’s because we were on our way to a vehicle fire.

Here are a few photos of the scene, and the now burned-out van. Sorry we don’t have any dramatic shots of the huge flames, or of firefighters extinguishing the blaze. We were too busy to take photos at that point!

Click on any image to see a larger version.

Structure fire on Canada Day

On July 1st at 9:49 pm, Gabriola firefighters were paged to a structure fire. We spent about four hours on scene fighting this fire, and making sure that there was no danger of re-ignition once we had the fire knocked down.

Here are some photos from the fire. Click any image to see a larger version of it.

Land clearing debris issues

Recently, we have had discussions with RDN representatives regarding the establishment of a site where local land clearing and fire smarting debris could be delivered and processed. Unfortunately those discussions have not proved fruitful, and some uncomfortable realities are starting to manifest.

Our fire protect district regulations reflect provincial rules, which, amongst other things, does not permit the burning of land clearing debris on a property without adequate clearances from neighbouring properties. A 100m buffer is required before a permit can be issued to burn a Class A pile (which is a machine built pile larger than 2Mx2Mx2M (6’x6’x6′) containing stumps and debris larger than 4″ in diameter, as well as the fine fuels). To make matters worse, it is illegal to transport that debris to another unauthorized location to burn it. For many years we had a safe and effective authorized burn site on the island but that is no longer operational.

This puts many of the 600 or so remaining undeveloped properties in a problem situation, as the only remaining options are chipping it and using the chips on site (maximum depth 6″), or trucking the debris to Nanaimo to an accredited disposal site. Both of these options are much more expensive than burning, but they are the only options many property owners are currently left with.

Another less than satisfactory solution has started to be seen- piling the debris on the property which retains the fuel load and the potential fire risks. Separating the larger debris such as stumps and piling them is not a problem, as they are very unlikely to catch fire on their own, and have been used in some places to build stump fences.

The fine fuels do present a problem, as these are easily ignited twigs, branches and needles. One method is to bury the debris, thereby creating a situation where it is less likely to have a fire start, but this route- like chipping- does create the potential for the leachate to mix with the surrounding ground water, and possibly become an environmental issue for wells etc.

In conclusion, because the fire dept strongly discourages the piling of debris, trucking it off island  appears to be the best- but most expensive- solution to dispose of this debris.

We remain hopeful that a suitable on island solution can be found for this increasing problem. Perhaps there will be enough public interest to convince the RDN to have another look into this situation.

RDN Emergency Notification System

When there’s an emergency affecting our region, you’ll want to know what’s going on and what you should do. We’re here to tell you about a new way to get the information you need.

The Regional District of Nanaimo is launching a service that will keep you informed about emergency situations. This is the RDN Emergency Notification System – you can sign up for it by providing your phone number and email address. When there is a major emergency affecting our area, the system will call and email you to let you to give you emergency alerts and updates.

To sign up, head to https://rdnemergency.connectrocket.com

Questions? An RDN representative will be at our Albert Reed Memorial Fire Hall, 730 Church Street, on Saturday, May 13th, from 1 to 4pm for our open house. You’ll be able to sign up for the system there, if you like, and ask questions as well.

It’s Time For Another Open House!

GVFD Open House – Saturday, May 13th

It’s time for another open house!  Come join us at the Albert Reed Memorial Fire Hall, 730 Church Street, from 1-4pm, on May 13th.
Gabriola firefighters will be there to talk about ways to FireSmart your property before the warm, dry summer weather gets here.  We will also have a wood chipper on site, so you can see how simple it is to use.  Chipping is a great alternative to burning all those pesky branches that are cluttering up your yard.  We have lots of FireSmart brochures, and are happy to discuss them with you.
Effective CPR save lives.  Want to learn basic, compression-only CPR?  Give us 30 minutes, and we will teach you, let you practice, and have a quick discussion about the automatic external defibrillators that are in more and more public areas.  Heart & Stroke Foundation Instructors, Jethro and Dimitri will be hosting CPR instruction every 1/2 hour during the Open House.
Do you have fire extinguishers at home or work?  Do you know how to use them safely?  Stop by and learn how to use an extinguisher properly.  Need an extinguisher?  We have them for sale at a great price.
We’ll also have one of our trucks set up with hoses flowing water for the kids (of all ages) to check out and try.
Just want to stop by and meet some of Gabriola’s firefighters and first responders?  You can do that too.  We’ll show you around the trucks, and answer any questions you may have.
We hope to see you there!

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.

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 check your smoke alarms!

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

« Older Entries