On Sunday, August 31, I traveled to Wenatchee, Washington to attend the memorial service for the three U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters killed in the Twisp River Fire. It is always an honour to attend LODD (Line of Duty Death) services. It is a way for the firefighting family to come together to show the families of the fallen that we will not forget them or their family member that was lost.
Shortly after 11 AM, a procession of emergency vehicles and two limos carrying family members of Richard Wheeler, Andrew Zajac and Tom Zbyszewski started moving through downtown Wenatchee. People lined the streets to pay their
respects. Some held signs that said things like “Thank you Firefighters, We love you!” and “You are our Heroes”
As the procession turned into the venue, it passed under two ladder trucks fully extended with an American flag hung between the ladders. Beyond that were over 100 fire and law enforcement personnel on both sides off the drive saluting.
Inside, there were pipes and drums, an honour guard, plus some traditions unique to the wildland firefighting community
We heard from friends and family of Tom. Rick and Andrew who told us what remarkable young men they were.
Tom was 20 years old. He was raised in the Methow Valley. He worked summers as a firefighter and was set to go back to Whitman College in the fall as a junior majoring in physics. Tom loved the theater and was in several productions
Andrew, 26, was from Illinois. He had a masters degree in Biology from the University of South Dakota. It was there that he meet his wife Jennifer. They would have celebrated their first anniversary in November.
Richard (Rick) 31, was from Michigan. He had a degree in Natural Resource Management and hoped to make a full-time career with the US Forest Service. He and his wife, Celeste, would have been married 3 years in December.
It was also a time to see coworkers that I had not seen in awhile, and catch up on news, not all of it good. I was saddened to learn of the passing of Captain Jim Swift of Redmond Fire, August 26. Jim died of cancer likely caused by exposure to toxic chemicals at fires. There were also retirements and new adventures to catch up on.
Fire Chief Emeritus
Cortes Island Fire Rescue
I am proud and excited to announce to you my new position as Fire Chief. I will continue to focus heavily on training and safety to provide for you an effective fire/rescue service. From all of us, I would like to thank Fire Chief Emeritus Dan Pippin for his wealth of experience and the dedication that he provided to us during his time here. I look forward to the years ahead when I will be able to give back to the island that has given me so much.
Cortes Island Fire Rescue
Ph: 250 935-6779
Fax: 250 935-6771
Reporting a wildfire is easy, but some people hesitate doing so because they think that others must have already reported it or they think “it’s probably nothing.” But if you see something that doesn’t feel right to you or something that looks like a column of smoke, please report it. The same thing goes if you see someone contravening an open burning prohibition, such as a campfire ban. A lot of people are reluctant to report these incidents because they don’t think it’s any of their business or they are wary of repercussions. But if you don’t report it, who will? The Coastal Fire Centre has received several reports of people who have witnessed illegal campfires and then confronted the individuals responsible for lighting it. We have also received reports about people who lit a fire illegally and then threatened the person who pointed out that their fire was prohibited. This sort of behaviour takes the open burning infraction to another level, because these people have not only contravened a prohibition, but have also “uttered threats.” That is illegal and anyone who does it can be criminally charged. We want people to report burning infractions, but we do not want to see anyone threatened or injured over the reporting of an illegal campfire. So unless you feel perfectly safe notifying someone that their campfire is not permitted, call it in! One of the reasons why the BC Wildfire Service has a reporting line is for the safety of the public, both from wildfire threats and from reactions of people who are not following the rules. To report a wildfire, abandoned campfire or open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. click here for more info
Generally speaking, the fire season in the Coastal Fire Centre consists of a rousing six weeks of activity from mid-July until the end of August, as the weather heats up and our forests dry out. This year, however, the wildfire season started a full month earlier than normal. According to Environment Canada projections, it may continue well into September. So how does the BC Wildfire Service, as an organization, keep up the required energy levels for this type of work, maintain constant staffing levels and encourage the public to continue co-operating with fire prevention measures for such an extended period? Our firefighting crews are well-trained and physically fit. They’re also used to hard work, since their individual fire seasons may be extended due to external deployments. In part, crew staffing levels are maintained by making sure that our firefighters use safe work practices to avoid injury. Staffing levels in the Coastal Fire Centre are augmented by “a little help from our friends”, through the government’s Temporary Emergency Assignment Management System (TEAMS) program. It allows the fire centres to bring in government staff from other areas to help out when needed. So the real question is: are the public able and willing to help and support us for the long haul? How do we as an organization help the public avoid ’Wildfire Fatigue’ and continue to report fires, abide by the prohibitions, and support our crews in the field, understanding that we have not yet reached the peak of our fire season? We are committed to maintaining an open and responsive dialogue with the public. They can visit our Facebook page (BCForestFireInfo) at any time to ask a question. We will do our best to answer quickly and provide the information that you need. People can also send an email to the Coastal Fire Centre at FORHPRP.INFOCO@gov.bc.ca We consider the people who live and work in this area to be part of our team. Their ongoing assistance and understanding is invaluable in the face of wildfire threats. Without their help, it would be a very long summer. click here for more info
Effective at noon on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, Category 2 open fires will be prohibited in the Coastal Fire Centre’s jurisdiction to help prevent human-caused wildfires and protect public safety.
This prohibition will remain in effect until Oct. 16, 2015, or the public is otherwise notified.
This prohibition covers all BC Parks, Crown lands and private lands within the Coastal Fire Centre, with the exception of the area known as the “Fog Zone” and Haida Gwaii. It does not apply within the boundaries of a local government that has wildfire prevention bylaws in place and is serviced by a fire department. Before lighting any fire, residents should contact local authorities to check if any other restrictions are in place.
A map of the affected area is available online at: http://bit.ly/1HIOlOb
Specifically, this Category 2 open fire prohibition applies to:
– The burning of any material (piled or unpiled) smaller than two metres in height and three metres in width.
– The burning of stubble or grass fires over an area less than 2,000 square metres.
– The use of fireworks, firecrackers, sky lanterns, burning barrels or burning cages of any size or description.
– The use of binary exploding targets (e.g., for rifle target practice).
This order does not prohibit campfires that are a half-metre high by a half-metre wide or smaller, or apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes.
People lighting a campfire must maintain a fireguard by removing flammable debris from around the campfire area and they must have a hand tool or at least eight litres of water available nearby to properly extinguish the fire. Make sure that your fire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cold to the touch before you leave the area for any length of time.
Any person lighting larger Category 3 fires (or more than two fires of any size) must comply with open burning regulations and must first obtain a burn registration number by calling 1 888 797-1717.
Anyone who lights, fuels or uses an open fire when a fire prohibition is in place or fails to comply with an open fire prohibition may be issued a ticket for $345 or, if convicted in court, be fined up to $100,000 and/or sentenced to one year in jail. If the contravention causes or contributes to a wildfire, the person responsible may be subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 and ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.
The Coastal Fire Centre covers all of the area west of the height of land on the Coast Mountain Range from the U.S.-Canada border at Manning Park, including Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park in the north, the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii.
To report a wildfire, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.
For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, go to: http://www.bcwildfire.ca
You can also follow the latest wildfire news:
Donna MacPherson or Marg Drysdale
Fire Information Officers
Wildfire Management Branch
Coastal Fire Centre
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect
Fire Centre Bulletin 2338
After twelve years of service as the president of The Cortes Island Fire-Fighting Association Ben Fulton has retired from the board. We are most grateful to Ben for his dedicated leadership in providing Cortes Island with the excellent fire-fighting service we now have at our disposal. We also owe a great deal of thanks to the other outgoing board of directors for their many years of service and the vast time commitment they made to CIFFA; Bertha Jeffery, Wilson Baker, Rankin Smith and Bob Peterson. A warm welcome to the new board, who bring with them their energy and enthusiasm to start a new year of serving Cortes! The board has approved the nomination of board member Chris Walker as the new president.
During December the following training was completed by members.
Dan Pippin took a train the trainer course for the new Office of the Fire Commissioner Exterior Firefighting course. 4 other members will take the same training in January 2015.
Brian Cant, Eli McKenty and Alex Bernier took wharf and dock firefighting course. They learned how to fight fires on docks and wharves. The Fire Department is working with the Harbour Authority to make other improvements to dock firefighting capabilities.
On behalf of myself and the entire Cortes Island Fire Department I would like to wish all Cortes Islanders a happy and safe holiday season. We look forward to continuing to improve service in 2015.
Cortes Island Fire Rescue
Cortes Island Fire Fighting Association
#2 - 959 Beasley Road
Manson's Landing, B.C.
Phone: 250 935-6779