A handful of Volunteer Fire Departments in the Fraser Fort George Regional District (FFGRD) will soon be able to fight fires from within buildings.
Since June, all 13 Fire Departments were limited to fighting fires strictly from the exterior. This, after the BC Fire Commissioner established three service levels for all career, volunteer and society fire departments in the province.
“Exterior operations, interior operations and full service,” says Fire Services Coordinator for the FFGRD, Melanie Perrin.”For the Regional District of Fraser Fort George 13 Fire Departments, we have been declared an exterior service level.”
That means anytime a fire creates a toxic environment, volunteer firefighters are unable to enter.
“Things like a sofa fire, anything that- some of the furniture these days is quite bad to contribute to a toxic atmosphere once it ignites. So once that is actually on fire they can’t enter,” says Perrin. “Things like a pot on the stove, certain electrical fires that are just the smell of wires melting, the firefighters are still able to enter on those occasions.”
Many fire departments with enough resources for training have been working towards an interior operations level.
One of them is the Beaverly Volunteer Fire Department. The Fire Chief, Bruce Perrin, says all 24 volunteer firefighters will complete their training soon. “To get everyone up to that level, it takes quite a while. That’s why we are hoping for it by the spring. We did interior attacks, we do live fires down in Quesnel, stuff like that all the time so it’s working out pretty well.”
Once declared at an internal operations level, the Beaverly Fire Chief says not much will change in the way a fire is approached. “We ventilate the building and knock the fire down from the outside, even if we were interior certified, then go in. With a positive pressure fan we get all of the toxic gas and heat out of the building right away, then we can walk in and get a victim. Before with the smoke down low we would have to crawl and it would take a long time to find them.”
The Beaverly Fire Chief admits there has been an extra cost. At times trainers need to be brought in. A recent tender operations course cost the department approximately $500 per firefighter.
The Fire Departments that cannot afford the extra training, or simply those without enough volunteer staff, will remain at an exterior operations level.
The Prince George Fire Rescue is working at both interior and full operation levels.