Kimberley resident Orin Hoglund has some questions about 911 service in the area, after an incident last week — the main question being why are we paying for it if they aren’t going to respond?
Hoglund works at the Elko sawmill and he says last Tuesday night (July 5, 2016) he was headed to work from Baynes Lake, where he was staying with his daughter.
“I turned on to Hwy 3 and in the distance I see a truck with its four-way flashers on. I slowed down and I see another truck on a side road and its fully engulfed in flames — at least six feet high.”
Hoglund says he drove past the vehicles slowly but didn’t stop at first because there was someone there.
“Then I changed my mind and pulled over and called 911 and told them what I saw. They asked me the location, I said about five kilometres from Elko. I didn’t know which fire department was closer, Elko or Baynes Lake but I said probably Elko. They asked me if I knew the name of the road. I wasn’t sure. I know the local name for it. She (911 operator) said is there potential for a forest fire? I said there are flames six feet high, you tell me.”
After hanging up, Hoglund went on to work. He said he knew someone at the mill who belongs to the Elko fire department so he called him and told him about the truck and the 911 call.
During his shift, at coffee break, Hoglund decided to drive back to the site of the burning vehicle.
“I saw the fire was out and there was no one around. About a half hour later at the mill, I saw the guy from the Elko fire department and I asked if he went to the fire. He said no so he drove down to have a look. When he came back he said it looked like nobody fought the fire. The ground wasn’t wet, there was no foam. There were still hot spots on the truck. He phoned the Elko fire department and found out later that there was no call.”
Hoglund believes that the vehicle fire could have turned into a much larger problem and he doesn’t understand why no fire department was called.
“Is there a price on safety? Why don’t they have a local dispatcher for the Kootenays who would at least know the location? When I found out they didn’t fight this fire, I thought why do we pay for 911 when they don’t even respond?”
The Bulletin put that question to Travis Abbey, Emergency Services Coordinator, Regional District of East Kootenay.
“A phone call to 911 results in the caller being asked “Fire, Ambulance or Police”. “Ambulance” will get you to BC Ambulance for them to be dispatched, the same with “RCMP”. In regards to “fire”, the area in question didn’t reside in a formal Fire Protection Area, so no response would be provided. The exception to that is if the fire happens to be spreading into the forested lands, then BC Wildfire would be dispatched through the “Fire” side of 911 to keep the fire from spreading further, but not to extinguish the vehicle itself. If there is an indication of spread, BCWildfire would certainly be notified and their dispatch would decide whether to send someone out or not. If it’s wet, pouring rain or outside of a time where there is any wildfire threat, they would likely not attend either.”