The Ootischena Volunteer Fire Department (OVFD) has officially welcomed a new fire chief.
Len Coates has been serving in the capacity of acting fire chief since June. His appointment to chief was made official at a recent RDCK board meeting.
Coates has been a member of OVFD for seven years, with six of those years as deputy fire chief. He brings with him a wealth of fire fighting and safety experience.
Coates has been working in pulp mill fire protection services for 25 years and currently works at the fire department at the Mercer Celgar mill in Castlegar.
He has completed four levels of the Justice Institute’s officer program including captain, deputy chief and chief. He has also taken emergency management courses, is also a training evaluator for the RDCK, a training instructor and hazardous materials technician.
OVFD currently has 18 members. Coates says he will be looking to promote someone to take the deputy chief position in the near future.
The department’s coverage area seems a bit confusing at first, unless you look at it in terms that they are basically responsible for the regional district area surrounding Castlegar. For example, OVFD provides services for Ootischenia, the houses on the opposite side of Arrow Lakes Drive from the pulp mill, Selkirk College and up the highway towards the Paulson Summit in the area between Sorenson Road and College Creek.
Unlike some rural fire departments, OVFD is certified to provide interior fire suppression, meaning they can enter a burning structure.
Coates has set some goals moving forward including improvements to the fire hall and grounds.
He says there haven’t been a lot of improvements or maintenance to the building in recent years, so he hopes to spruce the hall up a bit.
Coates is also working on building an outdoor training ground at the site of the fire hall.
Education and training is another priority for Coates.
“I am quite progressive in getting people through education,” he said. “I want to make sure my members are trained to the level they should be.”
On top of training opportunities for OVFD members, Coates says he plans to offer two special programs a year and other training opportunities that will be accessible to members of other fire departments as well as his own.
“The biggest thing on my plate is always developing my firefighters and my officers so that they can take on all types of different roles and specialties,” said Coates.