2010 slow year for fires in Courtenay

The year 2010 was one of the quietest for the Courtenay Fire Department, which responded to 110 fewer calls than it did the year before.

Fire chief Don Bardonnex presented his 2010 annual report to Courtenay council Monday.

"The Courtenay Fire Department had one of the quietest years in recent history in 2010," he noted. "We responded to 716 incidents in the city of Courtenay and fire protection districts, 507 of which were to emergency incidents and 209 of which were to non-emergency incidents."

Both emergency and non-emergency responses fell in 2010. Responses to the east and west sides of the Courtenay River decreased by about 50 incidents each when compared to 2009, according to Bardonnex.

"While (the total) number's down approximately 110 calls from last year, that effect is throughout the Valley and neighbouring communities, and it seems to be more weather-based," he told council. "The wet summer we had and quite honestly a lot more rain than snow this year kept the accidents down, and when the snow came, it came so hard, people just didn't want to drive."

Fire losses for the city of Courtenay, Courtenay Fire Protection District, Merville Fire Protection District and Black Creek Fire Protection District totalled $644,200 in 2010. There were no fire losses in the Merville or Black Creek fire protection districts.

One of the highlights of 2010 occurred in November, when the Courtenay Fire Department received 30 new Scott Self Contained Breathing Apparatus packs, which replaced packs that were purchased in about 1996.

"These new air packs have improved safety features such as tracking system that will allow us to locate a downed firefighter more efficiently, a heads up display for improved air management, larger capacity cylinders which will increase both productivity and safety, and quick connects on the air lines to allow for emergency filling of cylinders in emergency situations," noted Bardonnex. "These packs have been in service since the beginning of December and have been given rave reviews from our members."

The air packs are designed to transmit information out to the command vehicle and back to the air pack, and they have an identifier for each firefighter and an emergency signal, he explained.

"The technology leap with this equipment has been incredible," he said.

The Courtenay Fire Department made major improvements to its firefighter training program in 2010 by hiring Dennis Henderson as its assistant fire chief/training officer, noted Bardonnex, who says it has led to "awesome changes."

"The membership has responded very well to the changes Dennis has implemented, and we are excited about what he has planned for us in 2011," he wrote.

Less members left the department in 2010, as five volunteers moved on due to changes in careers, jobs or personal issues during the year, compared to 12 members leaving in 2009.

"Improvements to our training program, as well as introducing more recognition for jobs well done seem to have temporarily slowed down our attrition rate, but only time will tell if the changes we have made will have positive long-term effects," noted Bardonnex.

In 2010, Deputy Chief Neil Lamb retired after serving the department for 13 years — although he is staying on as a volunteer — and Fire Inspector Rick Euper left the organization to join the Kelowna Fire Department after 13 years with the Courtenay department.

With these changes, the department promoted Kurt MacDonald to deputy fire chief and hired Greg Lamb as fire inspector and Cary Kerr as emergency vehicle technician/fire inspector.

The Courtenay Fire Department Fire Prevention Program was very busy in 2010.

The department's full-time staff inspected 1,325 businesses in the city and 124 in the fire protection districts and provided the public with many public education opportunities, including the RBC Life Safety Expo for Grade 7 students, the fire safety house for Grade 3 students, fire extinguisher training, fire hall tours and car seat inspections.

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