The Kimberley Fire Department has released their third quarter report for 2018, and Fire Chief Rick Prasad says that despite a decrease in calls for service, with this year’s forest fires so close to the City it was the department’s busiest fire season yet.
“We had a decrease in calls and alarms, but there was an increase in automatic alarms,” said Prasad at a Regular Council Meeting on Monday.
There was a total of 13 automatic alarm calls along with six first aid calls and several electrical, public service, and backyard burning calls.
Prasad says that prevention and inspection did well in the third quarter, with businesses doing a “great job” in following up from previous inspections.
81 inspections were completed, with 80 per cent of those being compliant with no major safety concerns.
“We would like to commend the business community for their efforts in keeping the community safe,” he said.
He adds that the 2018 Fire Prevention Open House was held earlier this year than previous years, ending up in a great turnout of approximately 500 people.
Training wise, the department was fairly quiet during the third quarter. Prasad says that this is typical for the summer months as many employees take their holidays and spend time outdoors. The department participated in over 700 hours of training however, with one member becoming certified in 1001 Firefighter levels one and two (the equivalent of a Red Seal).
In terms of fuels management, a dry summer put several projects on hold. Now that conditions are optimum, says Prasad, seven projects located in the Forest Crowne, Nature Park and Nordic areas are underway.
Extreme fire behaviour over the summer kept the department on their toes, and Prasad says that a lot was learned during the time that the City was on evacuation alert from August 17 until September 3.
“Realities crept out during the alert in terms of the size of the community and what we’re faced with,” said Prasad. “We clarified our role with the RDEK during that time. Our operation has to look after our people. We have a lot of stars in the community, including City staff, that kept the ship steered in the right direction and I commend them for that.”
Prasad says that the department has determined how to proceed if the City were to face an evacuation and a lot of information was gained through the door to door notifications of the alert.
He says that the proximity of the Meachen Creek fire provided a learning opportunity for the City and the Fire Department.
“It was good for emergency management and we are lucky the fire stayed in the drainage,” he said. “We are ahead of the curve now. Communication is key, there was a lot of information and overall a great job was done by City staff.”
Councillor Sandra Roberts says that the number of residents who needed help that were identified during the door to door alert was more than the City expected.
Prasad agreed, saying that 200 people were identified as needing help in the event of an evacuation, but weren’t registered on their list.
“We had no idea the number was that high,” he said.
Going forward, Prasad suggests community groups gather to better communicate and help spread the correct information to their neighbourhoods.
“We are looking at getting community groups together to create a plan in each neighbourhood. It makes things more efficient and helps with all kinds of things,” said Prasad. He pointed to a group in the Trickle Creek area that had a designated person of contact for the neighbourhood.
Councillor Darryl Oakley ended the discussion by thanking Prasad and the rest of the department for their efforts this summer.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said. “Everyone hit the ground running and it’s amazing thing. We now have a plan for the future.”