Fire Chief Gerry Rempell wearing his turnout gear.

Castlegar under fire ban

Hot and dry conditions mean Castlegar firefighters are working hard to protect our city.

Betsy Kline

 

Castlegar News

 

Due to the very dry weather conditions, the outdoor burning ban put in place last week still remains in effect for the City of Castlegar.

The prohibition includes backyard campfires, fireworks and any other spark producing burning. Propane and natural gas appliances are excluded.

The Castlegar Fire Department would like to encourage all citizens to remain diligent and follow the ban. The department had to respond to a call over the weekend when a backyard fire got out of control.

Castlegar Fire Chief Gerry Rempel is pleased that most people are following the fire ban.

“I would like to say, that the people of Castlegar have always been very good historically when it gets dry like this. We don’t have a lot of issues. People are very cognizant of the fact generally that it is pretty dry conditions and they are very good.”

The department has also responded to several minor lightning strikes in the city in the past few weeks.

The Castlegar Fire Department does a whole lot more than fight fires. They respond to car accidents, medical emergencies, rescue calls, hazardous material situations and other calls where first responders are needed. They also provide highway rescue for an area that covers from Nancy Green to the Bombi summit, from Pass Creek to the Brilliant Dam and from China Creek to as far up Lower Arrow Lake as you can drive.

A mutual aid agreement with the Robson, Ootischenia, Kootenay Boundary Fire Services and Pass Creek fire departments means that they also respond when those departments have situations that require extra assistance.

Rempel is pleased with the work and training of the Castlegar crew.

“We have a very versatile department. We have a lot of variety here,” he said.

The Castlegar Fire Department currently has three full time staff consisting of the fire chief, and two deputy chiefs. Twenty-six trained firefighters make up the rest of the department, carrying pagers 24/7. These firefighters mostly volunteer their time as they are only paid for the times they actually go out on a call.

In spite of having a crew that is on call,the department actually has a very fast “shoot” time – the time it takes from when a call comes in to when the first truck rolls out. An assessment a few years ago showed an average time of just four minutes.

Working in the heat wearing turn out gear that weighs over 30 pounds and is designed not to breathe can bring about heat exhaustion and other heat related injuries quickly. “We have to be very cognizant of that. These are pretty high temperature times.” said Rempell. When you add a 35 pound air tank, the physical toll begins to tally quickly. The department must pay a lot attention to their rehabilitation centres and rest periods when they are on duty.

“We have an excellent community here. It is my experience through my whole career here, that when we get into times like this when it is super hot and dry, people are really cognizant of that,” said Rempell. “I would like to thank everybody for that. Really, relatively speaking, we have minor issues of people caused fires. We are really appreciative of that.”