Archive for wildland fire

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.

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.

Wildfire quiz

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has a wildfire quiz for you. In just 11 questions, they’ll tell you if you’re a permanent permafrost dweller or a fire-dragon slayer. Once you’re done you can view the answers to make sure you really know all the stuff.

We hope you are all fire-dragon slayers!

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.

RCMP seek info about July 9th fire

We responded to a bush fire on July 9th. Here is the RCMP press release about that incident:

On July 9, 2015 at 2pm Gabriola Island RCMP responded to a request for assistance from the Gabriola Fire Department in relation to a brush fire located in the 700 block of Church Street which they were currently battling. Upon police attendance a burned area of brush, grass and trees was located beside a dirt trail leading into the forest off of Church St. Due to the location and nature of the fire it was deemed suspicious by Fire Chief Jackson and police. A witness observed a Caucasian male riding a dark coloured bike, no shirt, short brown hair with a backpack enter the trail area a few minutes prior to the smoke being observed. Police would like to speak with this person of interest to determine what if anything they know about the fire that started there. Gabriola Island RCMP and Gabriola Fire Department would like to remind everyone to be extra vigilant with open flames in the current dry conditions and to actively report any suspicious activity or fires immediately to the proper agency. Anyone with information is asked to call Gabriola Island RCMP or if they wish to remain anonymous they can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Debris fire

Debris fire on July 10th, 2015Two fire pages came in just before 3:30 on July 10th. One was for a structure fire, and the other a bush fire. Crews arrived on scene at the structure page to find a pile of debris burning in proximity to a building, a boat and a utility trailer. The fire was quickly knocked down, while other crews searched for the bush fire. It was soon determined these were the same event, much to everyone’s relief. It is thought the fire started in amongst some paint cans and possibly some oil or solvent covered rags.

No one was home at the time, and neighbours and passersby called 911 and worked to contain the blaze and remove lumber from the proximity.

I understand this is another area with poor cell service, and the caller had some problems getting through to the 911 dispatchers.

Bush fire, July 9th 2015

gabriola-bush-fire-church-july2015Just before two this afternoon, we responded to a bush fire. It was in the woods off Church Street, at the side of the trail that runs from Church Street to Tin Can Alley. Our firefighters were on scene quickly; we contained and extinguished this fire before it spread.

The cause was undetermined, and the RCMP are looking for a person of interest who was seen in the area minutes before.

Click on the photo if you’d like to see a larger version of it. Photo credit: Nigel Denholm.

Summer Winds

summer-winds-fire1The warm summer winds bring another type of hazard to the island. Not only drying the moisture from the island, but causing branches and trees to fall and break hydro lines. These high voltage wires are extremely dangerous should you come in contact with one ( stay back 10m) , and can start a fire in an instant. That is what we were paged out to this morning.

Luckily the wire fell into an area that was damp enough that the fire did not spread quickly, allowing the crew to wait for the BCHyro crew to attend and de-energize the wire.

Should the fire crew need to suppress a spreading fire before the power can be shut off, we would shoot a high pressure fog spray into the air over the fire, and allow the water to fall down in an electrically non-conductive rainstorm. Never apply a direct hose stream onto anything you suspect could be electrically energized.

summer-winds-fire2

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.

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.

Wildland fire practice

Here’s a photo from our practice last night in Gabriola’s 707 Acre Park.

truck5-and-portatank-707

You’re looking at a portatank and Truck 5.

A portatank is kind of like a swimming pool. We can set it up quickly and dump water into it. Then the truck that will be pumping water can draft (suck) water from the portatank, while other trucks go to the hydrant to get more water.

Having several trucks on water supply runs ensures that we’ll have the water we need to fight the fire.