It’s been a busy year in Burns Lake for Jim McBride, Director of Protective Services for the Village of Burns Lake. Fire Chief McBride runs the 29 member volunteer fire department.
“The biggest problem we have is the carnage on our roadways,” said McBride. “We’re entering what we call our silly season on the highways as winter approaches.
McBride reported to Village of Burns Lake council on Oct. 30 that there have been 97 calls for service so far this year, including 43 motor vehicle incidents and four fatalities that the fire department as responded to this year already.
McBride was reporting on the fire department’s budget request for in 2013. The fire department is looking for a capital budget of $13,000 to replace ageing fire hose, for computer upgrades and for the purchase of a ground monitor (a $4000 piece of equipment that frees a firefighter from manning a hose in structural or wildland fire situations).
“Some of our fire hose is older than some of our youngest members,” said McBride of the fire hose that needs replacing. “And a good portion of our training is on webinars,” he said, “that’s why we’re asking for a $3000 computer to facilitate this.”
The Burns Lake volunteer fire department has a heavy training requirement due to high volunteer turnover. “One of the biggest problems we face here is recruitment retention,” McBride said. “In the 14 years that I’ve been director of protective services, we’ve put no less than 110 volunteers through our doors.”
McBride blames this turnover on local employment. ‘Transient professionals’, as he calls them, come to Burns Lake and begin to volunteer for the department before moving on to other areas leaving the department shorthanded.
In his report to council McBride described how new technologies are expanding the usefulness of the department’s current equipment. “We’re using foam as an additive to the water now,” he said. “Our truck carries 840 gallons, but using it with foam gives me eight to 10 thousand gallons of suppressant.”
The training involved to become familiar with the new fire truck and other new technologies hasn’t been cheap. Two training sessions were required to bring volunteers up to speed with the new fire truck. Those sessions required bringing a specialist in from Salt Lake City, Utah and cost the department $3000 per session. McBride does not expect any more sessions to be required.
Training is a big part of the Burns Lake volunteer fire department. Members can work towards their fire fighting Red Seal. “Once a person has the fire fighter’s red seal, he or she can go anywhere to work,” said McBride. “In the 14 years that I’ve been here, four volunteers have gone on to work [paid] full time as a fire fighter, but in order to obtain his or her red seal certificate, a person has to go through 14 different courses.”
In his closing comments to council, McBride recommended that the village find a way to set aside $35,000 annually in capital reserves for equipment and building upgrades.