The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way we live and work, with many people out of work altogether, and many others working from home. For some, however, working from home is not an option, and they must continue to do their jobs to keep us safe and secure.
Kimberley Fire Chief and Emergency Program Coordinator (EPC) Rick Prasad said lately his role has shifted more towards the EPC side of the job.
“I am lucky to have very capable assistant fire chiefs, officers and firefighters that can handle any event that comes along in the Fire Department,” Prasad said.
Since April 10, Prasad has been in the City’s emergency operations centre alongside other working city staff, who together are developing plans and strategies to ensure the City remains able to safely provide necessary services.
Prasad said the staff also work to support the measures put in place by provincial authorities to slow the spread of the coronavirus through messaging and being the eyes and ears for Emergency Management BC.
Like other businesses and services that have remained open amid the pandemic, the City’s operations have all been adjusted to support provincial COVID-19 measures, with the safety of their employees and the public being the principle factor.
At the Fire Department, this includes increased cleaning protocols, adjusting the number of personnel in vehicles, adding protective equipment, firefighter health screening and an overall adjustment to the way they do business.
Prasad also explained the outdoor fire ban in Kimberley, saying it was put in place to reduce the chance of fires escaping and reducing the potential for smoke.
“I’ve heard some valid concerns from both sides on this issue,” he said, adding that he’s seen numerous headlines regarding winter-cured grass causing concerning situations throughout the region.
“Combining this measure with other strategies, reduces the times that our firefighters get called out,” Prasad continued. “Every time they respond, our volunteer firefighters are at risk of infection, injury or something even worse. Ultimately these are members of our community, with families and jobs, and I do not find it acceptable to consider fire-pit use over the health and welfare of our firefighters.”
The pandemic has also greatly impacted the way the fire department conducts their training.
“Unfortunately we have had to depart from our traditional training methods,” Prasad said. “We are very protective of our firefighter’s health and safety and until we can ensure that face to face training can be done safely we have offered online training. Currently we are developing strategies that will re-establish face to face training.”
On a more personal level, Prasad explained he and his family are living with the same restrictions and frustrations as everyone else, but he said that he feels “fortunate enough to be blessed by continuing to work during these restrictions.”
“I also have an incredibly supportive family and friends to lean on when times get tough.”
Prasad said that the once-in-a-lifetime trip he had planned with his parents to see Elton John perform and the Blue Jays versus the Red Sox play on opening weekend, were cancelled.
“My parents, who live with me, were incredibly disappointed,” he said. “Also, we are maintaining the two-metre rule in the household and I haven’t been able to hug either of them, or even be in a space together with them since this all began.”
His children are grown up and have lives of their own in Cranbrook and Calgary, and Prasad said they are coping as well as they can.
“My daughter had a wedding planned and it seems those plans will have to change,” he said. “My sons have partners and all are doing well through this, as my children have incredibly positive attitudes. And of course, I miss playing with my grandson.”