Archive for fire hazards

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.

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!

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.

Fire behaviour in the wildland/urban interface

At the recent community hall meeting, many people asked what they could do to help. Our primary message was to be prepared to look after yourself, and not add to the burden of the emergency services.

Another huge contribution would be to ‘fire smart’ your property- remove the fuels, be they twigs and ladder fuels or oily rags and other sources of combustion.

The following 20 minute video is is used as part of a training program for firefighters who respond to wildland/urban interface (WUI) fires. It gives a reasonable perspective on how a bush or forest fire might spread, the various fuels that will spread them, and what you can do for yourself to enormously increase the chances of your home surviving such an event.

Extreme-Shutdown

We are now at that level of extreme fire hazard where shutdown is in place. Most powered equipment- gas, diesel and electric- have restrictions under this category. Building construction tools, such as table saws and air compressors that are safely located may be used. There are also certain low-risk industrial activities- such as digging a foundation- that are also permitted. If you have any concerns or questions, please contact the Fire Officer on duty at 250-755-9289.

Another danger from freezing weather

This past Sunday our department was paged out for an “explosion and fire” at a residence that demonstrated the incredible power of freezing and steam.

The owners were away and the plumbing – including the heat exchanger in the wood stove – had frozen up. Some friends had come by and lit a fire hoping to defrost the place. A while after lighting the woodstove they heard a hissing sound,  followed by an incredibly destructive blast that demolished the stove, sending shrapnel throughout the house and yard, blowing out a number of windows and skylights.

One person was badly injured by the flying debris, and a number of small fires were started throughout the house from the stoves burning contents.

The picture above is of the remains of the heat exchanger from the woodstove, once a rectangular shape like the bottom section. The 3/16″ thick stainless steel was no match for the damage from freezing and then from the forces generated by the steam. For a mathematical perspective – a steam plant engineer has stated that 6 gallons of water heated to 350’F has the explosive force of 1 lb. of TNT. After seeing the damage to this home, I can say I have no problem believing those figures.

Electrical fire

burned-plugWe recently responded to a page for a structure fire. On arrival we found the house full of acrid plastic smelling smoke. The home owner directed us to the clothes dryer which had smoke rising from behind it. We immediately shut off the electrical breaker, determined that their were no flames present, and pulled the dryer out from the wall. We used our Thermal imaging camera (TIC) to determine that no heat or flames was present in the wall itself.

The problem was caused by a fault in the plug. Possibly the copper conductors inside had been damaged at some point while removing it, possibly by pulling the plug out by the wire.

If any of those copper conducting wires attaching the plug to the cord are broken, the electricity flows through the fewer remaining wires, and the resistance caused by this reduced conductor size generates heat, which can build up and further damage the plug.

Eventually the heat becomes great enough that the plastic starts to melt and / or burn.

If you have a plug or electrical cord that you suspect may be too hot, have it inspected by a qualified person.

Smoke on the island

A slightly orange light and a distinct smell of smoke is lingering around the island and is expected to persist for a number of days, according to a BCForest service report.

Outflow weather from the interior has brought the smoke of many forest fires into our airshed.

With this situation comes the danger of people becoming complacent with the smell of smoke, and a actual emergency could be masked, and a 911 call delayed for longer than might otherwise be the case.