Archive for Author Rick Jackson

About the Author: Rick Jackson
Gabriola Island's fire chief.
Author Website: http://gabriolafire.ca

MICS Saves the Day

Last Wednesday, July 25, our pagers went off for a structure fire on North road. As all of our FFs were heading for the fire hall, a second page came through, standing down our department, as the fire was on Mudge Island.

The relief of not having a structure fire to contend with on this extremely dry July morning quickly changed to concern, as Mudge doesn’t have an actual fire dept.

A small band of locals known as MICS, the Mudge Island Citizens Society,  have undertaken the task of acquiring equipment and training for a day like that morning.

As I drove onto Brickyard beach, I saw how urgent the developing scenario appeared. A wide plume of black smoke rose into the sky . Occasional flares of orange flames indicating that trees were candling. The plume seemed to be getting wider as I watched. Luckily there was no wind to spread it faster.

Within a few minutes, I could hear a siren from across the water. The retired Gabriola fire engine No.3 was responding, along with their other two trucks.

I knew the BC Wildfire Service would have been contacted as well. In a remarkably short period of time, the black smoke started to turn grey and patchy white, indicating water was being shot onto the fire.

A helicopter appeared and did a couple of loops around the fire site, then disappeared. There had been a second fire call on another island, and after reporting on the Mudge fire, it flew off to assess the other one.

Two more helicopters soon arrived and deployed Bambi buckets, which scooped up seawater and made numerous runs dousing the fire.  It was less than an hour after the fire started that the heli’s were dropping water, which IMO, is a pretty reasonable time for outside support crews to be active on a scene.

Later on, sprinklers were set up, and and the sound of a Wajax fire pump roared on until the next morning- to the reported chagrin of one Gabriolan.

MICS is to be commended for the great job they did containing the fire until the helicopters could deliver their payloads. Without them, the likelihood of a great deal more fire damage was a certainty. They deserve the support they get from fellow Mudgekins and others who have contributed to support this most essential endeavour.

This Saturday, MICS will be hosting their annual fundraiser, the money being used to keep them in business. With this past weeks event still fresh in everyone’s  minds, I suspect this may be a very successful event.

For more information on our neighbour, check out www.Mudge.ca

A Seasonal Burning Ban is Now In Effect

Due to continuing dry weather, a burning ban is now in effect.

Propane fireplaces with a flame height of 6” max are permitted, as are propane and briquette BBQs and hibatchis.

Cautious use of woodstoves for home heating is also allowed, but please ensure your chimney is clean, as a chimney fire could result in a fire speading to the underbrush, etc.

Hidden Fire Hazard

Fire crews responded to a house full of smoke page this morning. A search found that a light had been left turned on in a closet, and the light bulb had been in contact with bed sheets piled on a shelf. The hot light bulb started a smouldering fire in the closet.  Please make sure you don’t have a similar situation in your home. 

Bush Fire

Fire crews were paged to a bush fire on an acreage off of Taylor Bay road this afternoon. A westerly breeze had spread the fire to cover an area of about 1/2 acre.

Access to the area was good, so crews were able to quickly deploy hose lines and stop the fire from further spreading.  Completely extinguishing the fire took much longer, as the dry fuels will smoulder and flames can pop up for some times afterwards. The property owner, as well as fire officials, will keep a close eye on the site over the coming week to ensure their is no rekindling.  The cause of the fire is under investigation.

New tanker truck

This past week we took possession of our newest fire vehicle- No. 10 – a 3000 imp. gallon (13,500 litre) water tanker- or tender in the latest fire fighting jargon.

This truck was built by Hub Fire vehicles of Abbotsford, and is similar to our No.2 tanker, which has been serving us well for the past 8 years.

In our department we have 4 tankers, which in effect, act as our fire hydrants. These trucks roll to one of 5 gravity fed hydrants located around the island and deliver the water back to the fire scene.

As you may recall, in 2007 we became the second volunteer fire department west of Ontario to earn the Superior Tanker Shuttle Accreditation, which is the equivalent to having a fire hydrant within 300 M of your home. (This should be stated on your insurance documents.)

We were actually the first department to earn this status without the assistance of neighbouring fire departments, resulting in savings to Gabriolan property owners millions of dollars per year in insurance costs.

To earn this status, amongst other factors, we needed to be able to deliver water from 5 kms away from the test site, and pump 200 gpm for 2 hours non stop.

No.10 will be serving our community for at least the next 30 years.

Jay Dearman’s Memorial

This is an information update regarding the memorial for GVFD firefighter Jay Dearman, scheduled for Feb.10, 14:00 hrs. at the Albert Reed Memorial Firehall, 730 Church st.

We are asking that anyone wishing to speak at the memorial contact GVFFA president Jenn Knight via email asap to have your name put on the list in advance of the gathering.

email:

JenMKnight@hotmail.com

To anyone attending from off island, we have arranged for our local bus to meet the 11:55 and the 13:10 ferry to shuttle people to the hall.

The bus will also shuttle people from the hall back to the ferry in time for the 16:20 and 17:35 sailings.

Follow the signs to various parking sites at the Church, the lower field at the firehall and a parking area past the hall.

To ensure no obstructions in the event of a response by BCAS or the Fire Dept., we will be restricting parking on Church street for the duration  of the event.

For more information, please contact the firehall office at 250-247-9677.

For more information please contact the office at the firehall at 250-247-9677

 

Emergency notication system.

The earthquake in Alaska this morning has people asking about our emergency notication system.
Years ago we investigated putting sirens around the island but realized for them to be effective their would need to be a lot of them to cover the island and they would all need backup power in case of a power outage.
Please sign up for this system if you haven’t already.

Taylor Bay Rd blocked for 12 hours

As well as a number of MVI’s on December 29th, the heavy wet snow caused a large tree to fall across Taylor Bay Rd, by Ivory Way- right at the spot where the wires cross the road. Because the power lines and telecommunications cables were entangled with the tree, road crews were unable to remove it until BC Hydro could attend. Due to power outages from an extremely bad ice storm in the Fraser valley, many of the normally available crews had been dispatched to that area, so nobody was available to help us until early Saturday morning.

Until the new Church- Spruce roads connector is completed, Taylor Bay Rd is the only way for vehicles- and especially emergency vehicles- to attend any calls in those neighbourhoods. Luckily, no calls came in until after the road was opened, but it created a nervous atmosphere for Fire, Police and Ambulance personnel.

We are looking forward to the quicker response times and the secondary access once the new road is in service.

This brings to mind the other area on Gabriola with a sizeable population and a single road access- Whalebone. Residents of that area were similarly inconvenienced recently when BC Hydro needed to close off Barrett road while they were replacing 5 power poles on that hill. Had a situation occurred there as just happened on Taylor Bay road, that area would have been equally cutoff.

We need to create another road into the Whalebone neighbourhood. I believe an emergency road can be created by upgrading an old logging road that runs from Pequod, to, ideally North Rd, but if that’s not possible, then to Wild Cherry Terrace. The necessary land belongs to the Federal Government, and they previously gave permission to build this road. As usual, money is the issue. MOTI has none for us. We need to find a way to get that road built.

Snow causes 3 accidents

The snow squalls on December 29 th created lots of issues as about 2″ of extremely wet and slippery stuff got dumped on various parts of the island. Emergency crews responded to 3 of these MVI’s, culminating in the one on Taylor Bay road were one elderly gentleman piloted his convertible about 50 feet down into Mallet Creek. Luckily it remained on its wheels, and the driver only suffered minor injuries.
After extracting the patient from his vehicle and securing him in the rescue stretcher, firefighters used the low angle rope rescue equipment to pull him to the top of the ravine and deliver him to the waiting BC Ambulance crew.

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!


 

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.

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.

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.

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!

 

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.

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