Willis Point Volunteer Fire Department Report
Fire Chief Aran Puritch
Hello Willis Pointers,
We still have a forest! Thanks to the diligence of residents in the point for reporting fires (including the smell of smoke), a fast response, and some creative thinking, the fire department was able to extinguish a very threatening wildfire in the hillside above the trail to McKenzie Bight. The crew trains and conducts drills relentlessly all year for this kind of situation and it is fantastic to have such a good outcome when faced with the real thing. A summary of the call will follow but first this report covers the new water cistern, training initiatives, and several significant membership happenings.
Thanks to a tremendous effort by our Fire and Recreation Facilities Commission we are very close to having our new emergency water cistern in service. The amount of their volunteer time spent on planning, project management, and installation work is easily in the hundreds of hours. The fire department is especially excited about the new cistern as it will be much faster and easier for us to refill our trucks in emergency situations and ensures we have adequate water available. Well done Fire and Rec! (see attached picture of Ken Smith and Joel Cotter installing the tank)
We continue to have excellent practice night turnouts and a strong commitment to meeting the requirements of the revamped provincial training standards. Captain Art Wynans has been doing an excellent job of delivering the training in-house resulting in higher enrollment and lower costs to the department. Members have also completed externally delivered courses including: Critical Incident Stress Management, Steve Eldridge and Britt Tregear; Air-brakes endorsement, Tristan Rowins; and First Responder Level 3, Brett Clarke. The fire department covers all training costs as we strive to foster a culture of continual learning. All we ask is that firefighters volunteer their time. Training is the primary daily function of all fire departments as it is imperative to ensure firefighter safety and provide the best chance for good outcomes.
The crew has been up to their usual antics with some deciding to move from the point, getting married, getting jobs, or just little things like starting families! We wish Brett all the best in his upcoming marriage to Jess and move to the Comox valley. Congratulations to Lorne Hutchins as he is the proud father of little Maverick. Congratulations are also in order to Steve in his marriage to Violette. Thankfully Steve is able to stay in the point. One of our longest standing members, Darren Pine, has moved to Brentwood Bay. Fortunately he still lives close enough (and often works in the point) which enables him to stay on. We welcome three new recruits from Willis Point: Brad Dyrbye, Sarah Johntson, and Yanik Gagnon. Our auxiliary firefighter program has been very active with two members, Kory Kowalyk and Jeff Cullen, finding full-time employment with Victoria Fire and Vancouver Fire respectively. New auxiliary members joining are Matt Cleaver, Garrett Best, Sam Bradstock, Kyle Wickes, Maya Kirk, and Nathaniel Wynans.
Fire Call Summary
The department successfully extinguished a human caused wild land fire located in the hillside above the trail leading to McKenzie bight on the evening of August 16th.
Firefighters initially attacked the fire with extinguishers but quickly deployed a portable pump on the beach and relay pumped through the Highland Fire department’s newly configured brush truck. From there supply lines were dragged up the treacherous hillside to a rock bluff at the point of the fire. Firefighters also used rakes and shovels to create a fire break.
The fire was approximately 10 meters square with flames reaching up to 3 meters into the trees. Fires can double in size in the matter of minutes so it is easy to see just how important the rapid response was. A delay of even 30 more minutes could have turned what was about a two hour effort involving 25 firefighters into a multi-day disaster with dozens of personnel and equipment from around the region.
Smoke was detected rising from the forest at approximately 7:40 pm and several residents called 911. This early detection and prompt reporting was instrumental in facilitating a rapid response.
Locating the fire was a significant challenge as it was on very steep terrain about 50 meters above the ocean side trail leading into the park. To help pinpoint the location, firefighters went into the inlet by boat where they could better view the fire and relay the exact position to firefighters on the ground.
Most of the Willis Point crew attended along with 11 members of the Highlands Volunteer Fire Department. Also attending were BC Ambulance and BC Forest Service fire personnel.
The fire was determined to be located on private land in what is known as Lot B. This section of the forest is frequented by people accessing the park.
The exact source of ignition remains unknown however there is a high likelihood it was the result of a discarded cigarette and virtually certain to be human-caused; the forest does not spontaneously ignite on a clear summer evening!
This was the only serious fire incident of the summer and we averted a disaster. Thank you to the firefighters and emergency services personnel for a job well done.
Pointers have also played a key fire-prevention role by observing the fire ban and reporting smoke sightings and unauthorized burns. Let’s keep this up to ensure we preserve our beautiful community.
That concludes the Fall 2015 report. Keep safe.
Fire Chief Aran Puritch
firechief @ willispoint.ca
|– Recruitment –|
|WPVFD provides several very important services to the community in rescue, first response, and fire suppression. Without our fire department, insurance rates would increase significantly and fast response to critical medical calls would not be possible. To maintain this level of service, we really do need a large group of volunteers and encourage you to join our team.
You don’t need any special training or skills to join and in fact you might possess very important competencies we could use already, such as having an air-brakes endorsement or medical training. If not, we’ll teach you everything you need to know. Any firefighter will tell you that it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding so I encourage you to start thinking about yourself as a volunteer firefighter today!
Come by the hall any Wednesday evening at 7pm to check us out or contact any one of the members.