Fire­fight­ers staying out of the brush

Vic­to­ria chief says brigade will no longer risk per­son­nel, equip­ment to fight for­est, brush fires

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

If the pro­vin­cial fire com­mis­sioner’s of­fice wants to con­sider mem­bers of the Vic­to­ria Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment as “struc­tural fire­fight­ers,” that’s just fine, says Chief Jim Lay­den.

As such, the brigade, with the sup­port of the Vic­to­ria town coun­cil, has de­cided it will no longer put its vol­un­teers and equip­ment at risk in or­der to fight brush and for­est fires.

They plan to leave that job up to those bet­ter equipped and trained for the task — fire­fight­ers with the pro­vin­cial Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

If called to such emer­gen­cies, Lay­den said, “we will re­spond to the near­est prop­erty and set up there to pro­tect the cit­i­zens of Vic­to­ria. If we can reach the blaze with a wa­ter can­non, we will fight it, but we are no longer pre­pared to go drag­ging heavy hoses through the woods.”

The depart­ment’s re­cent de­ci­sion was sanc­tioned at the May 16 town coun­cil meet­ing.

Lay­den told The Com­pass last week his depart­ment gets called to a dozen or so brush and grass fires in the sum­mer and fall.

“ We’ve al­ready had one brush fire so far this year,” Lay­den noted. upon to fight a lot of these types of fires.

Fight­ing for­est fires of­ten en­tails hav­ing to drag heavy fire hoses through thick woods, while wear­ing heavy bunker gear.

Un­der the cir­cum­stances, Lay­den said, “ heat ex­haus­tion is a real concern for fire­fight­ers.”

Ac­cord­ing to the chief, they have been un­suc­cess­ful in get­ting the green light for “no max cov­er­alls,” the type of lighter cloth­ing worn by pro­vin­cial forestry fire­fight­ers.

When they looked into it, Lay­den said they were told they were con­sid­ered “struc­tural fire­fight­ers.”

CBN Joint Coun­cils agreed to in­clude a re­quest from the Vic­to­ria Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment for “no max cov­er­alls” in their letter to the pro­vin­cial fire com­mis­sioner’s of­fice.

Lay­den said last week he hasn’t heard any­thing from Joint Coun­cils about it since that meet­ing.

— Vic­to­ria Fire Chief Jim Lay­den

Heat ex­haus­tion a concern

Af­ter smoul­der­ing just be­neath the sur­face for some time, the is­sue first ig­nited in April when Lay­den told a CBN Joint Coun­cils meet­ing in Car­bon­ear his depart­ment is called

Risk to equip­ment

Aside from the per­sonal safety concern, the depart­ment has also lost ex­pen­sive fire hose in for­est fires.

“If our fire hose gets de­stroyed in a for­est fire, forestry won’t re­place it,” Lay­den said.

The vol­un­teer fire depart­ment or the town ends up hold­ing the bag. And Vic­to­ria Mayor Arthur Burke pointed out, “ fire hose is not cheap to re­place.”

Mean­while, Lay­den said, “if we only have to put out one or two lengths of fire hose (to fight a grass or brush fire) we don’t mind do­ing that. But we’re not go­ing drag­ging hose through the woods any­more — it’s too heavy and too hard.”

Be­cause Vic­to­ria is sur­rounded by woods, Lay­den noted they get calls to brush and for­est fires on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

From now on, he said they will be call­ing the on-duty of­fi­cer at forestry or the RCMP.

He said it takes forestry of­fi­cials about 25 min­utes to get to Vic­to­ria from their base in Trin­ity Bay.

The emer­gency num­ber to re­port fires to the Vic­to­ria Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment is 5962424.

The for­est fire sea­son on the is­land of New­found­land runs from May 1 to Sept. 30. The toll-free num­ber to re­port a for­est fire any­where in the prov­ince is 1-866-709-3473(FIRE).

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