Due to public health orders resulting from COVID, the Courtenay Fire Department needed to find creative ways last year to ensure public safety while protecting its members from exposure to the virus.
One measure was a self-inspection program for ‘low-hazard businesses whereby occupants would follow a fire inspection checklist. A total of 1,640 inspections were conducted via the program, with few serious safety issues found, according to the department’s 2020 annual report.
“Last year was challenging for us (due to COVID protocols),” Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said at Courtenay council March 1. “We had to pretty much kick everybody out of the fire halls unless we were responding to calls.”
Last year, firefighters responded to 834 incidents in the city and in fire protection districts, 553 of which were emergencies. There were no serious injuries or worker fatalities.
Compared to 2019, the number of emergency incidents dropped slightly. Most calls were fire alarm activations, motor vehicle incidents and structure-related. Non-emergency responses increased by 41 calls, mostly related to complaints of smoke and activities associated with homeless encampments.
Responses to the west and east side of the Courtenay River numbered 474 and 360, respectively, which remained consistent with 2019.
Fire losses for each of the City of Courtenay, the Courtenay Fire Protection District and the Merville Fire Protection District totalled $810,200 for 2020. Major losses in Courtenay included a commercial fire at 140 Headquarters Rd., and an apartment fire at 1029 Ryan Rd. Estimated damages were $60,000 and $57,500, respectively. A New Year’s Day fire at the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa south of Courtenay caused about $500,000 worth of damage.
Bardonnex was happy to announce that each member of the department is NFPA 1001 level 2-certified.
“I’ve said it time and time again, that’s an accomplishment for volunteer fire departments.”
The Courtenay Fire Department has 53 regular members and eight on reserve. The pandemic prevented a recruit training program from happening last year, but the department hopes to start a new class in mid-2021, Provincial Health Orders permitting.