Burns Lake fire chief expresses concerns

During 2011 the fire department responded to 22 ambulance assists, five structural fires, 28 motor vehicle incidents and four false alarms.

A wet spring last year resulted in less grass fires in the local area from March to July 2011.

Jim McBride, Village of Burns Lake director of protective services and fire chief for the Burns Lake Fire and Rescue Department said that a quicker than average snow melt also allowed the grass to green up faster than in previous years.

The information was presented last week to Village of Burns Lake mayor and council in report on the fire department’s activities during 2011.

According to the report, during 2010 the fire department responded to a total of 26 grass fires while during 2011, the call outs to grass fires was reduced to just five.

Also in 2011 the fire department responded to 22 ambulance assists, five structural fires, 28 motor vehicle incidents and four false alarms.

The busiest month was in December 2011 with 15 call outs, up from just four during December 2010.

“One of the five structural fires that the fire department responded to was at Babine Forest Products sawmill, one was on Gerow Island resulting in a monetary loss of $10,000 to a small out building and its contents, one was on Third Avenue which resulted in minor fire damage but extensive smoke damage costing $75,000 in restoration costs, one was at an automotive repair business that resulted in minor damage to tire repair equipment and extensive smoke damage costing close to $80,000 to rectify and the final one for the year was a minor kitchen fire, which had the potential of becoming a major incident had it gone unnoticed. It caused less than $1,000 damage,” said McBride.

Vehicle accidents resulted in 33 per cent of the call outs during 2011.

Out of the 28 vehicle accidents the fire department attended, just two were within municipal boundaries.

“On no less than seven of these accidents the fire department had to deploy its hydraulic rescue tools in and additional equipment to assist in extricating the trapped occupants in these vehicles. We also carried out two ‘over the bank’ rescue operations as a result of a vehicle leaving the road. One of these incidents required fire department members attending the scene to work in the water to recover a trapped victim from a partially submerged vehicle.”

McBride said to council that assisting the B.C. Ambulance Service makes up the second largest number of calls the fire department responded to during 2011.

“Ninety per cent of these calls are to assist ambulance staff with lifting the patient and moving them out of tight situations such as hallways, entrance ways or up and down staircases and into a waiting ambulance.”

Mayor Luke Strimbold expressed concerns with the amount of ambulance assists the volunteer fire crews were attending.

“We should talk about this issue at the next Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference,” he said to council.

He added that there is a lot of volunteer fire crew time dedicated to assisting paid B.C. Ambulance workers.

Councillor Quentin Beach said, “If we had a fire department that just attended fires, who would assist in motor vehicle accidents and assist the B.C. Ambulance crews?”

McBride said that the community of Hope has the Highway Rescue Society who assist in those calls while their fire department only attends fires.

“I would whole heartedly support this issue being brought up at UBCM … I think it is a positive reflection of the 29 member volunteer crew that we have that they are willing to drop everything to go an assist with these calls.”

“We have the finest volunteer group in this community,” McBride added.

According to McBride, the remaining incidents responded to by the fire department included one gas leak, four false alarms, a power pole fire, three smoke alarm activations, three chimney fires, one dumpster fire, two brush fires, a snow mobile accident and two pedestrian incidents, of which one was struck by a train and the other by a vehicle.