Salt Spring Fire Fighters Deploy to Help with Shovel Lake Fire

British Columbia is facing another extreme fire season with over five hundred fires burning in British Columbia. On Aug 15th a provincial state of emergency was declared for the second year in a row. After a request for assistance from the Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue deployed our reserve Fire tender (RT2) with two SSIFR firefighters; Capt. Doug Ponsford and Firefighter Patrick Byrne. Our SSIFR firefighters joined forces with over 100 firefighters from all over the province in an effort to combat the Shovel Lake Fire. The massive Shovel Lake fire is estimated to be 85,744 Hectares in size. The firefighters are calling Nechako Valley Secondary School in Vanderhoof home. Capt. Ponsford expressed that the community has been very supportive and welcoming. SSIFR Firefighters Ponsford and Byrne are part of Task Force 3 and are shuttling water for fire suppression and structural protection in the Babine area fires burning near Fraser La…
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Alert: Fulford Harbour Boat Fire

It probably started around 12:15 and was out with the boat totally destroyed by about 12:45. Coast Guard and lots of other vessels on hand. Didn't see the initial fire so don't know if there was an explosion or not. Of course, have no idea if the occupants got to safety but likely they did as it's a very busy boat channel. These pictures are from the end of Isabella Point Road. Photos and news story contributed by Laurie Robertson. Some of the smoke from the fire could be seen on the Salt Spring Exchange - Fulford Harbour Cam.
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Fire News: Close Call, On Alert, Lessons Learned - Uniting Community Efforts Through the Emergency POD System

(Humanity) is not imprisoned by habit. Great changes in (us) can be wrought by crisis - once that crisis can be recognized and understood. Norman Cousins Glimpsing backwards to discover patterns of adaption For those of us who have gone through hardships in the past, this week we woke up once again to the need for radical mutual care. It made me reflect on the day we moved in when a neighbour walked down the driveway with a jar of homemade plum jam. She became a life long friend. Being welcomed home by a neighbour is one of the best feelings in the world. Importantly, coming from away we were being carefully skilled on community living. Salt Spring rural life has been good that way. Twenty years later our home is filled with 26 nervous neighbours eager to discuss the recent fire and our ability to respond. Three days after the Beaver Point Rd fire threatened to turn much of what we love to ash we gathered to determine how our chapter of the Emergency Pod system worked …
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Fire News: Chief’s Response Report – 2018 June

Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue responded to 60 Incidents in June 2018. These were: Twenty (20) medical emergencies, One (1) structure fire, Five (5) motor vehicle incidents (MVIs), Eight (8) calls for assistance, Two (2) BC Hydro incidents - one fire and one tree on lines, Thirteen (13) open burns, One (1) animal rescue, Two (2) chemical spills or leaks, Two (2) reported (sighted or smelled) brush fires, and Four (4) commercial and two (2) residential alarms, Operations Update: Chief George attended the Annual General Meeting for the CRD Communications Centre (Fire Dispatch). This centre dispatches for sixteen fire departments and handled a total of 5,268 calls in 2017. Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue was the 3rd busiest service with 701 calls in 2017, 13% of the total number of dispatch calls. The annual commercial inspection of all fire apparatus was successfully-completed by Salt Spring’s PNR Trucking. This inspection is required for the annual fleet insurance renewa…
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Salt Spring's Firefighters - Chantelle Pohl, My Story

My story starts with a fluke accident on a water slide that suddenly transformed me from a healthy and happy 20-year-old to a depressed and suicidal young woman suffering from Chronic Back Pain. For two years, I was in constant pain, unable to work, and seldom even able to get up from my couch. Despite being unable to earn money, I gave away thousands of dollars trying to remedy the pain as well as seeking its root cause. I was told that I may have chronic pain for the rest of my life. This was simply not something I was willing to accept! My journey to recovery started with seeing a sign Got Back Pain? at a trade show and laughing inside, thinking: You have no idea! I kept walking, assuming that this back place would be no different from the other dozen that I had already tried that had just band-aided the situation, offering no real improvement. . . . But, something inside made me turn around and go back and inquire. Best mind-changing decision I've ever made! They look…
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Fire News: Chief’s Response Report – 2018 May

During the month of May 2018, the Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue (SSIFR) responded to 62 incidents. These included: 21 medical incidents, 16 open burn incidents, 7 motor vehicle incidents (MVI), 3 brush fires and 2 reports of a suspected brush fire, 4 calls for assistance, 1 structure fire, 1 reported structure fire, 2 alarms - one commercial and one residential, 1 drowning, 1 propane incident, 1 BC Hydro line down, 1 rope rescue, and 1 beach fire. SSIFR responded to two incidents in May for fires resulting from pots left unattended on kitchen stoves. According to National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA,) cooking equipment is the leading cause of both home structure fires and civilian fire injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths. On May 24, SSIFR attended two back-to-back technical rescue incidents, the first involving an out-of-district rescue. Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) was called to assist with this technical call. The second technical incident tha…
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Fire News: Chief’s Response Report – 2018 April

In April 2018, Salt Spring Fire Rescue responded to 41 incidents including: Three commercial and one residential alarm bell, Three calls for assistance, One beach fire, One chemical spill or leak, One BC Hydro fire, 21 medical assistance calls, Two motor vehicle incidents, Six open burn calls, One rescue, and One chimney fire. Operations Update Thanks to Happy Dogs Legacy Campaign, Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue has outfitted our frontline apparatus with pet oxygen masks. These special oxygen masks allow us to provide pets that have been exposed to smoke the best possible chance of recovery. April 11th the Province of BC announced proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act. The suggested change to legislation will add PTSD and other mental disorders to the list of conditions that are recognized as being presumptive conditions associated with firefighting and other emergency professions. This is the first step towards providing m…
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Fire News: Chief’s Response Report – 2018 March

In March 2018, Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue responded to 45 incidents including: - Three alarms (two residential and one carbon monoxide,) - Five calls for assistance, - Twenty calls for medical assistance, - Two motor vehicle incidents, Six open burns, Five structure fires, Three vehicle fires and One false alarm. With rainfall for both February and March lower than usual, firefighters are preparing for another hot, dry summer. Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue received two letters of appreciations and two plaques from Emergency Management BC and the BC Wildfire Services for its response to the devastating wildfires of 2017. Training This month’s Tuesday night training included: - First Responder skills, - rescue boat training; - firehose handling; - Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA); and - fire extinguishers. Our recruit class of twelve also spent 50 hours training to become First Responders. This course is delive…
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Fire News: Being FireSmart Protects Your Home

FireSmart is a wildfire safety programme with an economical and common sense approach. The key concept of FireSmart involves removing or reducing the amount of burnable material (think “fire fuel”) from around your home. The area within 10 meters (30 feet) of your home is the “Priority Zone.” If you remove fire fuel from this priority zone, it will dramatically increase the fire protection of your home. Small actions, like clearing away dead woody debris, mowing the lawn, and pruning lower branches from nearby trees, can be the deciding factor between whether or not your home survives a fire storm. Cleaning needles from gutters and moving flammables (like firewood) away from the priority zone are other simple common-sense things you can do to protect your home. For more information about FireSmart, check out the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch website, the FireSmart Canada website, drop by the Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue (SSIFR) Ganges Firehall, phone (250) 537-2…
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Fire News: Chief’s Response Report – 2018 February

Response Report - Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue responded to 38 incidents in February, 2018. These included three structure fires (two chimney and one smoke in structure), 20 medical emergencies, two motor vehicle incidents, two BC Hydro incidents - one line down and one tree on fire, two calls for assistance, two commercial and two residential alarms, four open burn incidents, and one false alarm. On February 1, a local hero was awarded the Vital Link medal from BC Ambulance Service for administering life-saving CPR on her husband. Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue was first on the scene, providing continued support until the arrival of BC Ambulance. We are happy to report that, through the efforts of his wife, our firefighting team, paramedics, and the hospital staff, he is doing well! Membership This past month, Dan Olson resigned. Dan served on Sat Spring Fire Rescue team from 2008-2013 as a Paid on Call Firefighter, then rejoined the department in 2017 as a Fiel…
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An Invitation to Serve Your Community

Election time for the Fire Board is upon us, and I would like to invite you to consider serving your com-munity as a Trustee. The Board generally meets once a month. Trustees also staff the various standing committees along with members of the public. The term of office is three years. The roles of trustees are: to represent their community, to be stewards of the improvement district, to make policy, and to enact by-laws There are four requirements: 1. You must be a Canadian citizen. 2. You must be 18 years of age or older. 3. You must be a registered voter. 4. You must be a property owner within the improvement district. To give you an overview of the responsibilities of Fire Trustees, this excerpt from the Improvement Dis-trict Trustee’s Handbook may be helpful: There is an expectation of improvement district trustees that they will make informed, transparent deci-sions. However, when a person is elected to be an improvement district trustee, it does not …
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Fire News: Special Town Hall in Review

As you may have missed the Fire Trustees’s special Town Hall designed to initiate a series of conversations with the community, you may find a summary of this event interesting. . . . A New Firehall?: At 7:00 p.m., after Chair Per Svendsen welcomed everyone and introductions were made, a member of the public asked for an update concerning a new firehall. An engaged and interesting discussion ensued, and the majority of the evening was spent exploring opinions about a new firehall. Per confirmed that a two-acre property on Brinkworthy Road had been donated to the Salt Spring Fire Protection District and would likely be the proposed location for the new firehall. He said that members of the Facilities and Physical Plant Committee, as well as some other Trustees, had recently toured three halls on Vancouver Island and are planning to visit more in March. There was a great deal of discussion about the possibility of a building that would integrate services in addition to …
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Fire News: Chief’s Response Report - 2018 January

Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue responded to 47 Incidents in January 2018. They were: 13 BC Hydro incidents - 2 fires, 6 lines down, and 5 trees on fire; 11 medical responses; 7 requests for assistance; 3 structure fires - 1 commercial and 2 chimney; 3 motor vehicle incidents; 5 alarm bells (4 commercial); 1 hazmat incident; 3 open burns; and 1 elevator rescue. Operations Alert In the early hours of January 23,,our region was notified of a possible tsunami as a result of the large 8.0 magnitude earthquake off Alaska. Both the Salt Spring Island Emergency Program and SSIFR were were on high alert and readiness, but no action was required. It was quickly confirmed that the Gulf Islands were not affected, and there was minimal risk to our region. To further prepare for any future incidents, SSIFR will be working with our local emergency program to revisit our response plan and to ensure that Salt Springers are aware of this plan. I would like to thank the Board of Tru…
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Fire News: People Profile - Rollie Cook

When did you come to Salt Spring and what brought you here? My partner and I bought a farm on Bullock Lake about 15 years ago. We fell in love with the landscape here - the coastal rain forest is quite amazing. The island has a great cultural and food scene. Why did you decide to become a Fire Trustee? Our Fire Board has had difficulty in addressing important issues like a new firehall and balancing costs with public safety. It’s a hard balance to find. We need some common sense and a drive to get basic things done. I think my experience in life gives me some of that. What do you hope to accomplish as a Fire Trustee? I would like to has us finally build a new firehall. We can see the main risks we have here are wildfires in BC and a possible earthquake. We need to give our Fire rescue team the resources they need to protect public safety. Previous proposals may have been a bit too ambitious. We need to find a practical proposal we can afford. It’s do able! We can…
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Fire News: People Profile - Howard Holzapfel

When did you come to Salt Spring? And, what bought you here? We wanted to simplify our life, and we fell in love with this island. We had planned to stay for one year, and we are now beginning our ninth year here. One of the main reasons my wife and I had chosen Salt Spring was because of the hospital, high school, and full service fire department. I never anticipated relying on that department so soon: Within a few weeks of our arrival, we had an emergency with our young son and then, a week later, with our young daughter. The firefighters who responded were wonderful and assuaged my fear of living on an island with their timeliness, knowledge, and compassion. This experience reinforced the wisdom of our decision to make Salt Spring our home. This bittersweet personal experience motivated me to give back to the community by joining the fire department. In 2012, I became a Field Incident Technician. Why did you decide to become a Fire Trustee? I have spent my ent…
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FireSmart Landscaping Choices

Did you know that the landscaping choices you make can improve your home’s chances of with-standing a wildfire? Before then, would you like to test your FireSmart knowledge?             Ground covers - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Buttercup Dianthus English Ivy Periwinkle Phlox Sedum Perennials - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Bearded Iris Daisies Foxglove Geranium Hydrangea Lupine DR Shrubs - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Boxwood Fuchsia (dieback) Lilac Pyracantha Piers Salal Trees - Which three are fire resistant and drought tolerant? Cedar Dogwood Garry Oak Magnolia Maple Prunus cherry Interested in learning more? I will be at the popular Seedy Saturday on February 10th at the Farmers’ Institute at 10:30 a.m. to give you the information you need to make those right choices. See yo…
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Fire News: Grants for Improvement Districts?

During the incorporation debate, one of the most significant liabilities of improvement districts was their inability to compete for federal and provincial grants. Many do not know that this is due to a British Columbia provincial policy and that some other provinces allow their improvement districts to compete for these grants. Last month, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Adam Olsen visited our Fire department, as well as the North Salt Spring Water Improvement District. Attended by three Trustees as well as CAO Andrew Peat and Chief Arjuna George, all participated in a creative and cordial conversation about the possibility of a needed-policy change to allow access to grants. On October 17, 2017, the Fire Improvement District had written a letter to Adam asserting the unfairness that, although Salt Spring’s residents pay provincial taxes to support infrastructure needs of others, its improvement districts have no access to these funds. Spurred, also, by a Novemb…
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Fire News: Chief's Response Report - 2017 December

SSIFR responded to 63 Incidents for the month of December. The final statistics for 2017 ended the year with 701 calls for assistance, making 2017 the district’s 3rd busiest year in Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue history. Operations Update SSIFR finished off the year with a response-heavy December due to an increase in weather related events (snow and ice). One Dec 19th Firefighters responded to a hectic 24 incidents in 24 hours. Responders attended 21 Hydro-related incidents in December; three resulting in fires, 13 with lines down, and five with trees on power lines. Electrical emergencies are common during storm season and extreme caution should be taken around downed power lines. We also experienced an increase in structure related events with a total of 25 in 2017. Fire Permits expire December 31st, 2017. Fire permits are available January 1st 2018 in person at the Ganges Fire Hall or online at www.saltspringfire.com Fire permits are valid for one year and a…
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Fire News: People Profile - Fire Trustees Howard Baker

When did you come to Salt Spring? And, what bought you here? My wife and I purchased our offshore sailboat in Brentwood Bay in November of 1999. Sailing around the Salish Sea the following summer, the Farmers Market in Ganges was high on our list of places to visit. Anchoring in the harbor, we rowed our dinghy into the Coast Guard dock and were charmed by Salt Spring. Like many who have visited Salt Spring, we decided to move here permanently. We arrived in 2005 and spent that summer building a studio on property that we had purchased three years earlier. I spent much of the next ten years completing that studio and then building a larger home on this same property. My wife joked that, for many of those years, I was under house arrest. And, often, it felt that way. We got our Final Occupancy Permit, and I became a Canadian citizen several summers ago. Finally, I was free to become involved in some challenging issues facing Salt Spring. Why did you decide to become a Fi…
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Fire News: Chief’s November Incident Report

Salt Spring Island Fire-Rescue (SSIFR) responded to 45 calls in November 2017 making a total of 642 incidents this year. Firefighter responses this month included seven for assistance, 27 for medical emergencies, three for motor vehicle incidents, two for open burns, two for residential fires, and one for a vehicle fire. On November 4, SSIFR responded to an early morning structure fire on Park Drive. With working smoke alarms and alert occupants, the fire was quickly detected and 911 alerted. Beginning in the chimney, the fire was quickly contained to the interior. Thirteen Firefighters, assisted by British Columbia Ambulance Services, Emergency Social Services, and BC Hydro, spent six hours controlling the fire. On November 12, SSIFR responded to another structure fire, this time on Isabella Point Road. This fire started in discarded fireplace ash. Improperly stored ash is the culprit in many home fires each year. To avoid this hazard, store ash in a non-combustible cont…
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Fire News: Arjuna (A. J.) George’s One Year Anniversary as Chief

On the first anniversary of becoming Salt Spring Island Fire-Rescue’s eighth Fire Chief, Arjuna George graciously agreed to share some of his story with me. Our Island-raised Chief envisioned a future in customer service in the restaurant industry, hoping to someday become a chef with his own restaurant. When he became a volunteer firefighter in 1997, he caught the firefighting bug. Although working full-time at Thrifty’s, welcoming his newborn daughter, and helping care for his one-year old son, he spent every spare moment learning everything about firefighting. Never intending to make firefighting a career, he simply wanted to learn and practice all he could to prepare for the emergency situations that awaited him. Dreams of becoming a chef were put aside four years later when he became a full-time firefighter. From there, he progressed quickly through the ranks to Captain and Assistant Chief until 2009 when he entered management as Deputy Chief. He sees his strength…
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