Firefighter celebrates unforgettable birthday
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.