General · 30th July 2016
Early on the Saturday morning of the August long weekend many days of strong winds finally led to a broken powerline between Heriot and Open Bays on Quadra Island. Non surprisingly, after an extended hot, dry period, this sparked a forest fire. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the many islanders who through their own initiative and mutual goodwill had long ago formed formal and informal phone trees to communicate and respond to emergencies such as this. Without their quick action, and the good fortune of an early morning, rather than late afternoon start to this fire, we might well be following on the heels the recent disaster in Ft McMurray. This fire was outside of the island fire protection district for our own volunteer professional first responders but at least one immediate call went out to Forest Service Fire Emergency number for assistance. Nothing happened! Meanwhile hard working local residents worked hard to keep this fire from spreading. A second call to the Forest Service two hours later to ask where they were, disclosed they had no record of the first call. Following this call they finally authorized the Quadra Fire Department to respond and bill the costs back to the Province. This kind of response is unacceptable. My first career was with the BC Forest Service and I have been fighting fire for over 40 years. Believe me when I say that this mid-summer lack of response to a fire call on one of our islands is inexcusable. It is only by the grace of God, and our hard working neighbours, that we are not dealing with a disaster of our own. Someone in the Forest Service response system should be held to account for this travesty. A very dry and very windy period, with our island loaded with both residents and tourists alike, needs a physical response to a call for help measured in minutes not hours. In my day, in conditions like these, I would have lost my job if I couldn't respond with the launch of a fire crew, helicopter, bucket, and birddog with air tanker(s) within 5 minutes of receiving the call. We need to demand better - our houses, and indeed our lives might not be so lucky next time. It's time that fire crews were locally based during periods of high hazard, and it's time for their notification system to be overhauled to ensure that they are dispatched in a timely fashion.
Comment by Robyn Budd on 30th July 2016
Heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to stopping this fire before it could spread. As a resident of Hyacinthe Bay I am especially grateful to our local fire crew for their quick response. Paul Leeson's comments on the lack of response by the Forest Service is cause for concern. Meanwhile, for all who live outside the fire district, make sure you have functioning fire hoses at the ready. The unsettling smell of smoke in the air this morning prompted us to ensure our hoses were hooked up and ready to deploy.