Within 48 hours of handing over 9-1-1 dispatch to Kelowna, regional firefighters were put to the test.
An aggressive house fire, a hard-to-reach wildland fire, a river search in the thick of night and a rapidly-spreading grass fire – these were all the grave emergencies Kootenay Boundary regional firefighters had to deal with since Friday.
And that doesn’t include calls to help BC Ambulance with medical crises throughout Greater Trail neighbourhoods.
The good news is that by fielding emergency calls through the Okanagan, regional crews are already tightening their response times and they have another set of hands.
Quicker response saves time and saves lives, says Regional Captain Grant Tyson.
“We lost our dispatch on Wednesday,” Tyson began. “So when we had the fire on Friday, we had three guys in the truck, instead of two, and having that third guy made a huge difference.”
Historically (until Wednesday May 23) when emergencies were dispatched through the Rossland Avenue fire hall, two firefighters would immediately respond to the scene while the third stayed behind to manage dispatch and call in more help as needed.
Because 9-1-1 is now dispatched through Kelowna – all three firefighters can jump in the truck and go.
Little space separates the row of Rossland Avenue homes where the fire began, so response time for the Friday residential fire was absolutely critical.
“I could stand in between and touch both houses with my hands,” said Tyson. “So having a full time fire department and a duty crew stopped the extension of fire to other homes. I can’t stress enough how those three guys made a difference in that fire.”
The department was again tested early Saturday with the report of a wildfire in West Trail.
The 9-1-1 came at about 8:45 a.m. Within minutes the crew responded, and two of the firefighters hiked up from Daniel Street to the scene of two small fires located under power lines.
The fires were quickly extinguished. Though cause is undetermined, Tyson is asking locals to be very vigilant with all fire-related activities.
“It’s only May and it’s already this dry,” he said. “Think about what it’s going to be like in July.”
The new dispatch system – and response time – was tested a third time in the early hours of Sunday.
The call of a possible jumper on the Victoria Street Bridge came in house shortly after 3:30 a.m.
Within 11 minutes the rescue boat was on the water navigating the darkness of the Columbia River. Fortunately, the person was found on shore by 4 a.m. having never entered the river.
“Here’s the thing,” Tyson said. “Our operational guidelines stipulate we have to have three guys in the boat before we can leave. So as of May 23, we have been able to take all three guys from the hall. Before that, we’d have to call a guy out, he’d have to come from home and meet us at the boat launch before we could leave,” he added.
“That’s how important this is – our response time for boat rescues and our actioning a fire is way better because we have three guys now instead of two. Quickening our response saves time and saves lives.”
Later Sunday, firefighters were dispatched to a grass fire on 12th Avenue in Genelle.
“The fire was going pretty good,” said Tyson, mentioning crews were on scene until 6:30 p.m.