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Wildfire: a community hall conversation on Gabriola

This is what Carol Hemrich wrote after Sunday’s meeting. With Carol’s permission, we are pleased to share her article with you.

On Sunday July 5th 2015, Gabriolans gathered at the local community hall to express concern, ask questions, and share information about preparedness and action in this summer of extreme fire risk. The fact that nearly 400 people attended a meeting that had been arranged that very day is indicitive of the level of concern felt when we awoke to an eerie, out-of-this-world, glowing orange pall to the sky. People came wanting answers and a plan of action. They got a dose of reality.

We live in a community, as with all communities everywhere, with a finite set of human and equipment resources. We are experiencing a summer of severe drought that is occurring across the entire province and beyond. Through lower than expected levels of rain we are already at a Level Four drought. The result has been the province erupting into 60+ wildfires this weekend alone. We have seen the consequences of extreme weather elsewhere in the world. Now it is our turn.

The message of the evening, delivered by Fire Chief Rick Jackson, RCMP Constable Jan Hendriks and ESS coordinator, Shirley Nicolson, was that we are individually responsible for our own plan. The firefighters will be fighting any fires and the three RCMP officers will be dealing with issues of public safety and provincial emergency services will be assisting with minimum levels of service for people who are evacuated from their homes (for a maximum of 72 hours). The rest is up to us.

Experience elsewhere has shown that in times of crisis people pull together. That is what is needed here now, in advance of any severe situation. Our best defence is at a neighbourhood level, neighbour assisting neighbour. Citizen action is the order of the day.

How can we help? What can we do?

Today: ensure that you have a reflective house number, viewable from the road at night, so that first responders can quickly respond to any calls.

Constantly be alert for any indication of fire with heightened vigilance now that we are experiencing smoke from wildfires elsewhere in the province.

Carry a fully-charged fire extinguisher in your vehicle so that you are prepared to deal with any newly emergent fire situation you may be the first to encounter.

Carry a charged cell phone, if you have one, so that 911 call can be made as soon as necessary.

See broken glass lying at the side of the road or on a trail? Pick it up! Prevent a fire.

Meet with your immediate neighbours. Do you know their names? Their addressess? Do you have their contact information (e-mail and phone number)? Have you discussed the human and material resources available to you in the immediate vicinity? Who has access to a large water supply? Who has medical training? Who has skills and tools that would be useful in an emergency? Who is vulerable? Elderly? Alone? Compromised mobility? Breathing difficulties that would be affected by levels of smoke in the air? People with infants and children? Who has pets and livestock? Refresh this information now. Have that conversation now.

Carry the Fire Duty Officer pager number with you at all times (250-755-9289). This is the number to call for concerns of unsafe behaviour, non emergency situations that need to be investigated, such as the recent use of fireworks on the island.

Be diligent if you see someone driving with four-way flashers or flashing headlights. This is a firefighter, paramedic, or doctor attending a call. Give them the right-of-way!

Become involved if you see someone behaving in a potentially dangerous manner… challenge anyone who tosses out a cigarette butt… smoking should be done indoors only during this time of drought. Be aware of the total fire ban and the restrictions on usage of power tools and inform others if necessary.

Follow local FM radio for updates on emerging situations: The Wolf 106.9FM and The Wave 102.3 FM.

Pack and carry a Grab-and-Go bag in your vehicle or have it at your door. Assume that when you leave your house during this extreme drought, you might not be able to get back. Have your ID, your family contact information, medications/prescriptions, extra eyeglasses, water, a change of clothers, items for personal hygiene, have cash on hand (ATMs will be down in a power outage), a crank/solar powered radio, photos of family members and pets, important documents, insurance papers.

Keep your gas tank no less than half full so that you don’t run out.

If evacuation becomes necessary, police or fire vehicles will drive through a neighbourhood with sirens and loudspeaker alerts.

You are responsible for the people living on either side of you. Yes, you. Are they safe? Can they get out?

Take responsiblity. Take action. This is what will determine the outcome of this time of extreme risk for our community. If something needs to be done, take control. Some individuals left the meeting determined to get a sign put up at the Nanaimo side of our ferry terminal alerting visitors and new residents to the reality of our extreme fire risk. If something needs to be done to ensure our safety and the best outcome for our island, do it. That is how this meeting happend. Do not point fingers at others in the community. Take the action yourself; collaborate with your friends and neighbours.

Shift that consciousness!

Obituary: Albert Reed

Albert Reed served for many years as a trustee for the Gabriola Fire Protection District. His contributions to the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department have been extraordinary, and we miss him very much. We asked Albert’s family to allow us to print his obituary. This is what they submitted.

Albert James Reed

February 11, 1942 – June 1, 2015

photo of Albert ReedAlbert Reed of Gabriola Island, B.C., passed away on June 1, 2015.

Albert was born in New Westminster B.C. on February 11, 1942.

He is survived by Gail, his loving wife of 50 years, son Eric and his family, Angela, Hailey, Jaycie, and Holley, daughter Lee Anne and her family Rich, Abbey, and Zach, brother Dave and sister in law Paula. His nieces Elizabeth, April and Sarah, nephew Mike, his cousins, and his many friends on Gabriola Island, Deep Cove, the Lower Mainland and across Canada, will also deeply miss him.

Albert was a brilliant engineer and scientist, a great teacher and mentor, a loving husband, father, gramps and uncle. His life was defined by his intellect, wisdom, humour, his outreach to others and his gift to develop strong lasting relationships both professionally and personally.

He loved working for the Gabriola community through dedicated service with the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department.

Albert was passionate about The United Church of Canada. He saw no contradiction between being a scientist and a person of faith. He lived his faith and spoke up for justice.

For his entire life, he always role modeled the following wisdom:

When you encounter difficulties, go ahead.
When there is merit, give it to others.
Learn from those who know more and
Help those who know less.

Celebration of Albert’s life… Saturday, June 20, 1:00 pm at Gabriola United Church. Reception will follow at Gabriola Fire Hall.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to…The United Church of Canada, Mission and Service Fund.

Thank you to the Gabriola First Responders and Ambulance crew and to the nurses at Nanaimo Regional Hospital whose compassionate care provided a gentle cocoon for our family.

Minutes from the 2015 AGM

Gabriola Fire Protection District
Annual General Meeting
April 22, 2015

The Annual General Meeting of the Gabriola Fire Protection District was held on April 22, 2015 at the No. 1 Fire Hall with six Trustees, absent was Albert Reed. The Fire Chief, Corporate Officer, and Auditor were also present along with 16 members of the public. The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Chairman, Mark Noyon.

Minutes of the April 16, 2014, AGM were presented. The Chair asked for any errors or omissions, Moved by Paul Champion that the minutes be accepted as presented, seconded by Oscar Reeves, carried.

Financial Statement

The Financial Statement was presented by Doug Parkhurst from KMA Chartered Accountants Ltd, who explained the report was different this year as the GFPID had made the transition to the Public Sector Accounting Practice Standard. He gave a brief explanation as to why the transition and what these changes were.

Doug Parkhurst gave a page to page description of the differences from last year’s Financial Statement, then asked for questions.

Herb Rudischer moved that the Financial Statement be accepted as presented, seconded by Kyle Clifford, carried.

Fire Chief’s report

(As per written report)

Training Officer’s Report

(As per written report)

Captain Jethro Baker and Captain Will Sprogis presented the Training Officer’s report.

Captain’s Report – Number 1 Hall

(Presented by Jethro Baker)

Captain Baker gave an explanation of training practices, scheduling, and record keeping. He noted that the No. 1 Hall had 18 active members with 3 probationary firefighters, and that everyone was doing very well.

Captain’s Report – Number 2 Hall

(Presented by Captain Dimitri Tzotzos)

Captain Tzotzos explained that he had just been promoted to this position when Rick Fleming stepped down after 8 years of service. He thanked Rick for his time and energy and noted that everyone was very happy he would be remaining on as a Firefighter and First Responder.

He also thanked Walter Berry and Kyle Clifford for their efforts in being the driving forces behind keeping the Hall clean and recent upgrades.

He noted that the No. 2 Hall had 10 members, 4 of which were probationary members, but that 3 new people were going to be joining and this was the most members at the South Hall that he could remember.

Trustees’ Honorarium

Chairman Mark Noyon noted that the Trustees have one big dinner a year, and that their usual honourarium is $0.00.

Moved by Sam McGee that the Trustees honourarium remain the same, seconded by Inge McGee, carried.

Election of Trustees

The Chairman thanked outgoing Trustee Jeremy Baker for his efforts and time, and noted that three Trustee positions were available, two for 3 year terms and one for 1 term. As the Chairman was one of the positions that was up for election, Trustee John Hudson stood in as Chair.

John Hudson asked for nominations from the floor.

Inge McGee nominated Sam McGee, seconded by Fred Withey.
Isabelle Caron nominated Wilf Caron, seconded by Syreeta Caron.
Paula Mallinson nominated Sandra Rudischer, seconded by Veronica Hartman.
John Hudson nominated Mark Noyon, seconded by Oscar Reeves.

The Chair asked 3 more times for nominations from the floor, non forthcoming, ballots were handed out and collected by Scrutineers Veronica Hartman and Kyle Clifford, they retired into the back room and counted the ballots.

Mark Noyon and Sandra Rudischer were elected, while there was a tie between Sam McGee and Wilf Caron. Once again ballots were distributed and counted. Wilf Caron was appointed as the new Trustee.

Herb Rudischer moved that the meeting be adjourned, seconded by Will Sprogis, carried. Meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m.

Hallowe’en fireworks!

The Gabriola Firefighters’ Association invites you to their Hallowe’en fireworks show.

When: Friday, October 31st, 2014. 7 pm.
Where: Gabriola Sands Provincial Park. (Twin Beaches)

Expect great fireworks and a huge bonfire! Wear your Hallowe’en costume if you have one.

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

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

GFPID special meeting


There will be a Special General Meeting for the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at the No. 1 Fire Hall (730 Church Street). The purpose of the meeting will be to elect a member of the public, a registered land owner in the Improvement District and a Canadian Citizen 18 years or older, for a vacancy on the Board of Trustees, to fill the remainder of a term of approximately 2 years (April 2016). Nominations accepted from the floor.

Face fit tests for firefighters

face fit test: Walter BerryWhen firefighters enter a burning building, they wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield them from heat and to ensure that they don’t breathe smoke.

For each firefighter, PPE includes a mask and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). It’s crucial that the mask fit properly and seal tightly. To ensure that it does, every firefighter must pass a “face fit” test every year. This is a requirement of WorkSafe BC — and a requirement that is just fine with us!

Here you see firefighter Walter Berry wearing his mask while hooked up to the testing apparatus.

Auto-extrication training in the old hall

Auto-extrication practice in the old fire hall.From time to time people ask us what we use our old fire hall for, so we thought we’d show you one of the things we do there. (Click photo to see a larger version of it.)

This is a photo we took last fall during auto-extrication training – that is, training to get victims out of automobiles after crashes.

The red vehicle has been imobilized by a thing called the telecrib: that is the red and blue metal support you see in the corner of the vehicle.

Firefighters on the ground are playing the role of first responders, who tend to the medical needs of the patients. (The patient in this case is a mannequin.)

The firefighters wearing red helmets are our training officers, Will Sprogis and Jethro Baker.

In the rear of the vehicle, a firefighter is about to cut through the vehicle using hydraulic cutters (jaws of life).

Firefighter rappelling

Our training session this week involved rappelling down a cliff and climbing back up again – necessary skills for Gabriola firefighters, as we are called when people get injured on slopes.

In these two photos you see firefighter Peter Wishinski. In the first shot he’s at the top of the cliff, getting ready. In the second photo, you see Peter beginning his descent.

Wildland firefighting practice on Seymour Road

We’re always concerned about the risk of wildfire on Gabriola, so we practice wildland firefighting skills regularly. Here are some photos from Tuesday night’s practice, which was up in the Legends area at the end of Seymour Road.

We began by driving our wildland truck into the forest, setting up a portatank (not shown here, but explained in another post) and carrying hose into the scene. Once we had water flowing some firefighters manned the hoses, spraying class A fire foam into the trees. This foam is used both to extinguish fires, and to coat nearby trees or houses in order to protect them from fire.

Other firefighters used water backpacks, which are perfect for extinguishing small fires in grass or brush.

Click on any of the images here if you’d like to see a larger version.

Last night’s search for fire on Gabriola

At 11 pm last night our pagers went off, and the message dispatch gave us was “report of a bush fire, visible from Nanaimo.” This is alarming because Gabriola is dry right now, and a wildfire could be devastating.

Within minutes, most of our trucks and our command vehicle were on the road, and firefighters began looking for the fire. So if you saw fire trucks driving around last night, that’s why.

We looked and looked, but found no fire. We smelled no smoke. In the end, we concluded that the caller had been mistaken, so we stood down and went back to our respective halls. And then to bed.

Marine firefighting practice at Degnen Bay

fire-practice-degnen-bayLast night our firefighting practice was at Degnen Bay. This overview shot was taken from the end of Maple Lane, where there’s a public access trail down the hill to Degnen dock.

The immense spray of water you see in this photo is coming from our hose line, and is directed out towards an imaginary boat fire.

Here are two more photos of this practice session:

» Read more

Amateur Radio Field Day

Our ham-radio friends sent us this announcement:

Visit the radio room in the new firehall for amateur radio field day on June 28th 10 am to June 29th 10am.

This annual North American event is organized to test and demonstrate amateur radio communications in times of disaster.

All are welcome to drop in at any time during the event.

The radio room is in the basement of Fire Hall Number 1, on the side that faces the Old Fire Hall. The radio room has its own entrance on that side of the building.

Sandwell beach fire

Gabriola firefighters extinguished a fire on the beach at Sandwell this morning.

It appears the fire was the result of someone’s unextinguished beach fire. The wind had spread it throughout the logs and it was heading for the grass on the dyke.

From Fire Hall Number 1, a number of our trucks responded: 5, 12, 4, and 7. A crew of 6 hiked in with a pump and tools to extinguish the fire. It took them about an hour to put it out.

Here’s a photo:

» Read more

Our front page photo

june-2014-fire-ticDid you notice? This snapshot of ours is on the front page of the Flying Shingle this week.

This photo shows firefighter Will Sprogis (in the red helmet) using a thermal imaging camera. The fire we found has been extinguished; Will is looking to see if any parts of the building are really hot, which would indicate a hidden fire that our crews would need to expose and extinguish.

On the left of the photo you can see a bit of a hoseline and nozzle in the picture. If a fire had been found, the firefighter on that hoseline would have extinguished it.

Our fire chief, Rick Jackson, is looking on. He’s the guy in the white helmet.

The Shingle story is here: Fire crews dispatch fire on Brown’s way.

Here’s more about that fire from our blog: A June morning structure fire.

Car wash for BC Burn Fund

june-2014-carwashToday Gabriola firefighters spent several hours in front of the elementary school, running a car wash. If you stopped by with dirt all over your car, you left with a sparkling clean vehicle.

Donations from this event came to about $1500.00. The money will go to the Burn Fund for their Young Burn Survivor Camp.

Shown in this image: Lee Dunbrack and Evan McIntosh.

(Related news article in the Gabriola Sounder: Fundraising Car Wash & bottle drive for BC Burn Fund.)

Goats for fire prevention?

The wildfire risk in California is greater than we usually face here on Gabriola, so Californians tend to be more organized than we are when it comes to wildfire prevention.

Here they’re using goats to help prevent wildfire. The idea is that the goats eat dry brush, so they remove fuel for fires.

You may not have goats to do the job, but removing fuel for wildfires is a good idea. For more info on that, see the wildfire section of our website.

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