Fire­fighter cel­e­brates un­for­get­table birth­day

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROBYN SEY­MOUR

Rob Dove, a crew chief with the Har­bour Grace Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade, woke early last Mon­day morn­ing, ready to cel­e­brate his 30th birth­day. What Dove didn’t re­al­ize, this would be a birth­day he would never for­get.

While run­ning er­rands, he no­ticed smoke bil­low­ing down through what ap­peared to be the Thicket.

Dove im­me­di­ately con­tacted fire chief, So­nia Wil­liams, who ad­vised him Har­bour In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited was car­ry­ing out a con­trolled burn­ing of a blue­berry farm at the Ridge.

“I knew we were go­ing to get a call,” says Dove, “It was in the back of my mind. You get in the fire-fight­ing mode. You don’t leave town - you stick around.”

At roughly 11 a.m., Dove called Wil­liams back, say­ing, “The fire is go­ing good now,” and with min­utes, the fire­fight­ers’ pagers went off.

Seven­teen Har­bour Grace vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers raced to the scene, and im­me­di­ately be­gan to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion, keep­ing the fire un­der con­trol un­til Forestry of­fi­cials ar­rived a half an hour later.

Carbonear’s Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment was put on standby at the Har­bour Grace sta­tion and the Up­per Is­land Cove Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment was re­lay­ing wa­ter to Har­bour Grace’s pumper.

Roughly 20 min­utes af­ter Forestry ar­rived, their wa­ter bomber made it to the scene, quickly dis­pens­ing wa­ter on the es­ca­lat­ing fire.

Dove re­calls a three-phase hy­dro pole in the mid­dle of the area, as well as two ra­dio tow­ers made the sit­u­a­tion even more danger­ous.

“You never know what you got un­til you get in there and dig in,” says Dove. “You al­ways have to be one step ahead. You need to make sure all your bases are cov­ered, right down to where you park your truck.”

“You need to make sure you keep every­one and your­self safe,” adds Chief Wil­liams.” And make sure you don’t put any­one in un­needed dan­ger.”

The fire­fight­ers used ap­prox­i­mately 900 feet of hose and 2,000 gal­lons of wa­ter to keep the Thicket fire un­der con­trol un­til Forestry was able to fully take over.

“It takes a lot of man­power to drag the (hose) line through the woods, bushes, trees and rocks,” says Dove.

Wil­liams says while the fire- fight­ers and Forestry bat­tled the head of the fire, peo­ple from Har­bour In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited had five-gal­lon back­packs on,“try­ing to put out hot spots and hold the fire back.”

Be­cause there was no wa­ter sup­ply at the Ridge, the fire depart­ment’s pumpers had to be fed wa­ter at the scene.

“While one pumper was be­ing fed wa­ter, the other pumper was gone for a re­fill,” says Wil­liams. “There was 1,500 gal­lons of wa­ter at any given time.”

The fire, which burned steadily for three hours, was taken over by Forestry, who re­lieved the Har­bour Grace bri­gade of their du­ties.

Wil­liams says due to the min­i­mum amount of snow­fall the area has had this past win­ter, the land is much drier than usual, caus­ing more for­est/brush fires.

“Forestry is not in full gear yet and peo­ple should re­con­sider be­fore burn­ing land, due to the ex­treme dry con­di­tions,” she adds.

As of April 20, the Thicket fire was the third for­est/brush fire in eight days.

For Dove, “it (was) an aw­ful big can­dle to blow out — with no cake at the end — but it’s al­ways worth it.”

See re­lated story on Page A3.

VIEW — Harold Cros­bie of Bay Roberts was one of many by­standers who wit­nessed the dark smoke that arose from a con­trolled brush fire that got out of hand on the The Thick­ett Road last Mon­day, April 20.

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