As one of 12 structural protection specialists in the province, Gord Schreiner’s phone has been busy.
As the fire chief of the Comox Fire Department, Schreiner, along with six other firefighters from the department, recently returned from the Dog Mountain fire on Sproat Lake near Port Alberni.
“The biggest challenge (to fighting the fire) is not knowing when you’re coming back. Sometimes you get an hour to pack your bags, and you have to expect to be gone for up to 14 days,” he explained.
The Comox firefighters were tasked for about a week to lend their skills to fight the aggressive forest fire, in which they were able to protect and save many structures, some even with flames within feet of the building.
“There’s 21 structures on the peninsula, and the only access is by water. We deployed our structural protection trailer which we developed 10 years ago. Between forestry, ourselves and the helicopters (dropping water), we all played an equal role in saving the structures and keeping the area wet.”
The fire – which is believed to be human caused – grew to more than 400 hectares, but is now 100 per cent contained.
Schreiner said his firefighters practise with the trailer between 10 and 20 times a year and credits their knowledge and skills to being one of the main keys to knowing what to do when they arrived in the area.
“You’re literally put to work within minutes of hitting the ground,” he added, and noted the specialized protection trailer owned by the Town of Comox was one of the first on the Island.
“You never know what you’re getting into. It was a water-only access, with very steep terrain and a ton of stairs.”
Schreiner said the fire started on the top of the mountain, and came down on the cabin-side.
Fire generally doesn’t burn downhill, he added, but it worked its way down to the lake.
In total, the fire department used more than 5,000 feet of hose and about 60 sprinklers. The team had to keep everything wet – from decks to homes and even the wharfs where their pumps sat to prevent them from catching on fire.
Working 12-hour days, the seven-member crew returned Friday, and Schreiner said he has already received calls this past weekend for assistance in Prince George and Williams Lake.
He notes he expects more calls over the summer. There are 20 to 40 protection trailers in the province, with many located in the Lower Mainland.