The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George has set its new service level policy for volunteer fire departments in the area.
In compliance with the province’s Fire Services Act, halls must control a fire from the exterior, before heading inside. Fire Services Coordinator with the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, Melanie Perrin, says often there’s not enough time for a volunteer fire department to attack from the inside. “With an interior service level, the fire department can conduct an immediate interior attack, but we are finding that with volunteer fire departments and the response time, by the time that they’re arriving to a truly fully involved structure fire that they are having to start on a defensive position first.”
That’s not to say all fires must be fought from outside of a building. Standard stove top fires and laundry fires for example can still be put out. However, large structure fires are a different story says Perrin. “Once the fire’s been knocked down they’ll conduct a structural assessment to determine whether or not there’s still structural integrity there. Once that assessment has been conducted the fire department can then rotate and do an interior completion of the fire attack.”
Although to get to that level of fighting a fully involved fire from the inside, more training is required. Volunteers already need to complete a list of 15 training programs to be certified. Bryant Kemble is the Chief of the Ferndale-Tabor Fire Rescue and one of his biggest concerns is a lack of time to get all of the tasks done. “With the standards that we have now, a new person would be set to get that done inside of six months.”
Not to mention, the closest training facilities for live burning are located in Quesnel and Fort St. James says Kemble. “That involves travel, two days of your volunteers time which usually happens on a weekend which is there family day so trying to get people to go out and do it is getting slimmer and slimmer.”
Still, fighting a house fire from the inside makes a huge difference. “A lot of the calls we get called to, by the time we get there, it’s gone beyond going inside,” Kemble said. “We could probably save more, you know if you can go in and knock it down before it spreads, if you get there in time.”
Now, Perrin says the biggest problem continues to lie in a shortage of volunteers on the front lines. “It’s whatever we can be able to pull from the community with regards to volunteers coming out and volunteering at these volunteer departments and putting the hours in.”