BUCHANS’ NEW FIRE CHIEF OUT­LINES HIS PRI­OR­I­TIES

Fire preven­tion, train­ing, new equip­ment on Mike Piller’s list

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Front Page - BY PAULINE DEAN

BUCHANS, NL – TheBuchans Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment (BVFD) has a mem­ber­ship of about 20 vol­un­teers, with Mike Piller at the helm as chief since Oct. 6.

Piller was act­ing fire chief since Fe­bru­ary 2017 when past chief Dale Piercey re­tired.

Over the past 10 months, the BVFD has been ac­tive within the com­mu­nity, and not just fight­ing fires. Mem­bers par­tic­i­pate in pa­rades and light the fire works at cel­e­bra­tions in­clud­ing Canada Day, Come Home Year, the Lake­side Academy Park­ing Lot Party, and the re­cent James Hor­nell Boys and Girls Club Hal­loween fam­ily night.

These vol­un­teers are cer­tainly vis­i­ble through­out the com­mu­nity, says Piller. “When I took over in Fe­bru­ary I set an agenda for things I wanted to fo­cus on, and one of them was com­mu­nity en­gage­ment,” he said.

“We are not get­ting a vol­ume of calls, so peo­ple don’t see us in ac­tion.”

This year the de­part­ment is ramp­ing up its com­mu­nity en­gage­ment, and show­ing its pride, vis­i­ble on mem­bers’ BVFD-crested jack­ets.

“It was more about build­ing team pride and con­nect­ing as a group,” said Piller. “It’s get­ting us out there, let­ting the pub­lic see who the ac­tual fire­fight­ers are, and mak­ing that con­nec­tion.” Stu­dents from Kinder­garten to Grade 3 at Lake­side Academy got a first-hand look at what these val­ued vol­un­teers do while on a field trip to the fire hall dur­ing Fire Preven­tion Week.

Stu­dents saw the pumper truck in ac­tion, watched the Jaws of Life in op­er­a­tion, and saw all the cloth­ing and equip­ment fire­fight­ers need to do their jobs.

Piller said he was happy with the re­sult.

“Ob­vi­ously we like work­ing with kids and they had a blast,” he said. “That con­nects us, and they’ll re­mem­ber that they had fun, and we can sneak some mes­sages about fire safety in at the same time.” Train­ing

Fire­fighter train­ing is a big pri­or­ity in the BVFD. Piller at­tended fire school in Clarenville ear­lier this year, com­plet­ing his Fire­fighter Level I ex­ams.

“We’ve re­ally pushed it in the last cou­ple of years for train­ing,” he said. “Ac­tual cer­ti­fied cour­ses within our group are very low un­til a few years ago. Since 2015 we’ve re­ally started push­ing train­ing, get­ting at least the min­i­mum they are re­quired to have for their ba­sic fire­fighter skills.”

In 2016, five mem­bers started do­ing the Fire­fighter Level I, which Piller said is an in-depth view of skills fire­fight­ers need. Due to work and other fam­ily is­sues, Piller was the only mem­ber able to com­plete the prac­ti­cal por­tion of the course in Clarenville. He plans to bud­get for mem­bers to at­tend the rest of the train­ing next year.

“The more peo­ple we can get down, get trained and get these cour­ses, they can bring it back and teach (the rest of) our group.”

The de­part­ment also runs its own train­ing. Re­cently mem­bers were in­volved in Jaws of Life and pumper truck train­ing.

“We’re try­ing to get more mem­bers com­fort­able with us­ing the equip­ment,” said Piller. “It’s about get­ting peo­ple pro­fi­cient and com­fort­able.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are work­ing away, so the more pro­fi­cient (ev­ery­one is) the bet­ter. We can’t take the risk of (those trained) be­ing at work and us be­ing here with peo­ple who are a lit­tle bit ner­vous. The Buchans Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment has been in­volved in many com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the past year. Char­lotte Ped­dle, sec­ond as­sis­tant fire chief, and cur­rent fire chief Mike Piller were all geared up to set off the Come Home Year fire­works in July.

Build­ing mem­ber­ship

Piller con­grat­u­lated all who were nom­i­nated and ac­cepted po­si­tions for the four-year term along with him in Oc­to­ber, in­clud­ing as­sis­tant Fire Chief Jeremy Chip­pett, 2nd Fire Chief Char­lotte Ped­dle; Cpt. Jody Chip­pett; Cpt. and sec­re­tary Robyn Chip­pett; Lt. Stephen His­cock; Lt. Jon Hobbs; and trea­surer Glenn Hen­nessey.

“I have no doubt they will serve the de­part­ment and the com­mu­nity to the best of their abil­i­ties,” said Piller.

When it comes to build­ing mem­ber­ship, there has to be enough equip­ment avail­able for ev­ery­one. Ac­quir­ing new gear is a pri­or­ity, said the chief.

“There is a lot of in­ter­est com­ing from the com­mu­nity,” Piller says. “Peo­ple are see­ing us now, they’re ex­cited and say­ing, ‘I want to be a part of it.’ So, our big is­sue now is equip­ment.”

Re­cruit­ing new mem­bers, es­pe­cially in light of work and fam­ily com­mit­ments, is es­sen­tial, says Pil­ley.

“A lot of these small com­mu­ni­ties – it’s hard. You’ve got peo­ple that are work­ing away, so even if you have 20 or 30 peo­ple in your fire de­part­ment, you could have 50 to 60 per cent of them away work­ing at any given time.

“You don’t know who is com­ing to a call. It is sort of scary from our stand­point. The more

peo­ple that we can get on the de­part­ment (will build) a team that is able to re­spond and have the right the amount of peo­ple at a call.”

On that front Piller is glad for the close prox­im­ity of two neigh­bour­ing towns. Buchans has a mu­tual aid agree­ment with Buchans Junc­tion and Miller­town, “so you’ve got that as a back up,” said Pil­ley.

“But if you’re look­ing at re­sponse time … its still not a good si­t­u­a­tion. We’re look­ing now at ways that we can im­prove that part­ner­ship, start­ing to think more as one group rather that three dif­fer­ent de­part­ments.” The de­part­ment has a Face­book page and reg­u­larly up­dates mes­sages on the lo­cal ca­ble chan­nel.

Af­ter the pri­or­ity of new equip­ment to out­fit new mem­bers is dealt with, the next item on the list is a new pumper truck.

“Ours is 25 years old now,” said Piller. “It’s in great shape but at some point, we’re go­ing to need a new one and that is a multi-year process.”

To that end the BVFD has be­gun its sec­ond Chase the Ace fundrais­ing ef­fort, which they share with the Red In­dian Lake Ground Search and Res­cue Team. The first jack­pot went af­ter seven weeks, and $1,125 was raised for the two groups to split.

The new Chase the Ace be­gan Nov. 2. Money raised for the BVFD will help in build­ing the de­part­ment and pro­vid­ing more cloth­ing and equip­ment for vol­un­teers.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing time for the de­part­ment,” says Piller. “I’ve had a lot of pos­i­tive re­sponse from town coun­cil, mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and the de­part­ment.

“They like the di­rec­tion that we’re tak­ing. So, we’ll just keep go­ing, and hope­fully things will get even bet­ter.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Buchans Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment hosted a group of Kinder­garten to Grade 3 stu­dents from Lake­side Academy dur­ing Fire Preven­tion Week. Af­ter learn­ing about the equip­ment and cloth­ing needed to do their job pro­tect­ing homes in the event of fires, stu­dents posed with vol­un­teers Jody and Jeremy Chip­pett.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Fire Chief Mike Piller em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of all fire­fight­ers know­ing how to op­er­ate the pumper truck. With so many of de­part­ment mem­bers work­ing away or un­able to re­spond to a call at any given time, ev­ery­one needs to have this train­ing un­der their belt.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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