Emergency Operations Centre Liaison Dan Derby facilitated a wildfire command team meeting with staff from the RDKB, School District 20, the City of Trail, IHA, the RCMP and the BC Wildfire Service at 8 a.m. Wednesday (Sept. 12). Ten agencies cooperated to respond to an interface fire that threatened the regional hospital and Trail high school. Photo submitted

Trail wildfire highlights multi-agency cooperation

Ten agencies worked together in an emergency response to the aggressive fire

What started as an interface fire threatening a Trail high school, regional hospital and regional landfill on Tuesday, was reported under control early the following morning.

On Sept. 12, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary released the following report:

The 1.6 hectare wildfire burning above the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital is no longer a risk to structures and people due to the immediate and coordinated action by the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) and Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue (KBRFR) in addition to emergency responses from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, the City of Trail, Interior Health, the BC Ambulance Service, BC Transit, the RCMP, Rossland Search and Rescue and the Kootenay-Columbia School District including staff at JL Crowe Senior Secondary School.

“This was a textbook interface fire adjacent to a busy area, regional infrastructure and a potentially vulnerable population. What the whole situation illustrated to me was how well we can all work together when we’ve planned, practiced and built relationships ahead of an emergency,” said Dan Derby, Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Chief and Liaison Officer for the RDKB Emergency Operations Centre. “A short time after this fire started we saw ten very distinct agencies and multiple levels of government work as one team. It was nothing short of awesome.”

The Interior Health Authority had activated its own emergency plan in response to communication from emergency officials when the fire started and was ready to evacuate the regional hospital if necessary. All non-acute patients were redirected to the Castlegar Community Health Centre where staff worked until midnight to receive anyone in need of care.

Related story here: Trail wildfire suspected to be human-caused

Related story here: Crews respond to Trail wildfire

“We also had wonderful cooperation from Trail Transit who had 17 buses on standby for ambulatory patient transport and BC Ambulance stepped up with 4 ambulances ready to move our most acute patients to IHA hospitals in Grand Forks, Nelson and Kelowna if needed,” said Mandy Lowery, Acute Health Services Director for the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital. “Everyone was going through each of the necessary steps to ensure we could evacuate in an orderly and safe fashion if the call to do so came. We were ready to go.”

JL Crowe Secondary Principal Aaron McKenzie along with school and district staff also took emergency measures and evacuated the high school. They worked with the RCMP, other emergency officials and families to make sure students and staff got home safely.

And on the hillsides above the hospital, Rossland and District Search and Rescue combed trails in Miral Heights and Sunningdale Bluffs to make sure no one remained in the vicinity of the wildfire while City of Trail staff closed the trails and readied the Trail Memorial Centre to receive potential evacuees.

“This is why as a regional district we work with all of our partners across jurisdictions, sectors and levels of government. Emergency management requires a great deal of time and effort that no one sees or knows about so we are prepared. I’m very proud of what everyone did to keep the community of Trail safe on September 11. I can’t think of a more suitable act to mark a significant date,” said Grace McGregor, Vice-Chair of the RDKB Board of Directors.

“We want to get even better prepared for wildfire, flooding or any kind of emergency in our neighbourhoods,” said Derby. “This means we learn from each emergency, we practice together and we repeat.”

A combined sixteen personnel from BCWS and KBRFR are working at the fire today to fall dangerous trees, assess slope stability and investigate the cause of the fire which is suspected to be human caused. The RCMP is also assisting in the investigation.

The RDKB Emergency Operations Centre is now deactivated from a Level 2 to a Level 1, and staff have returned to their regular jobs. Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, JL Crowe Secondary School and McKelvey Creek Regional Landfill are all open. Traffic control will be in place as needed.

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