The area's various volunteer firefighting units were kept busy this past summer, answering the call of duty day or night.
During West Hants' fire advisory committee meeting Sept. 16, Brooklyn, Summerville, Walton and Windsor fire departments provided an overview of what they have been doing in 2013. Hantsport was unable to attend.
Brooklyn Fire Department
Brooklyn Fire Chief Mark Dearman told council they had responded to a total of 159 emergency calls since the beginning of the year.
The chief told council the department's membership stands at 48 firefighters, 12 junior firefighters and 24 auxiliary members.
Dearman noted that they have had issues with some of their apparatuses, including their 1987 pumper. He said it failed its pump test and no longer meets the certification criteria.
“Our 1993 pumper has been broke down for the last seven weeks waiting for parts and has been out of service for four out of the eight and a half months so far this year,” Dearman said.
There was also a major leak in the building's geothermal heating/cooling system in August but it was fixed in three days.
Dearman further noted that the death of Janet Davison, a long-time volunteer and auxiliary president, was a struggle for the department and auxiliary and thanked the Rawdon and Windsor fire departments for providing assistance during the funeral and Summerville for catering and taking care of setting up and cleaning following the funeral.
Summerville Fire Department
Summerville Fire Chief Chris Spencer told council more than half of their 66 calls for service were medical in nature.
Of the emergencies they responded to, 38 were medical, three were chimney fires, two were water rescues and six were motor vehicle accidents.
Spencer said that they currently have 29 regular firefighters, five veterans, two mutual aid members and three junior firefighters. It's the first time in five years they've had junior members, he noted.
The fire chief said training has been going well, with a good turnout by members.
“I am happy to report the department has trained a core group of its members in high angle rope rescue retrieval,” Spencer said. “The department will continue to take advantage of any training opportunities with its neighbouring departments.”
No major repairs were anticipated for their fleet of vehicles and Spencer said they would be having all of the vehicles undercoated in order to help extend their life expectancy.
“When you're spending as much money as we are for these units, its important to take proper care of them. So, annually now we have adopted a policy where we undercoat the entire fleet,” he told council when asked about the undercoating.
Spencer also highlighted that they were successful in raising enough funds to purchase a new Polaris Ranger side-by-side with fire rescue SKED and personnel/patient transport trailer. The unit would be used for various emergencies, including grass and wild land fires and search and rescue operations.
“The members have worked very hard and community support has been overwhelming, allowing us to raise the necessary funds required to complete our ATV/Fire Rescue Transport System,” said Spencer.
It cost about $50,000 to complete the project.
Walton Shore Fire Department
Walton Deputy Fire Chief Danny Patterson presented Walton's report and noted that from Jan. 1 to Sept. 16, they responded to 26 calls, 17 of which were medical emergencies.
Earlier in the summer, the Walton Shore Fire Department had requested funding from both East and West Hants councils in order to complete the project to save the Walton shoreline, and in particular, the fire department’s home base. A large rock retaining wall was installed to prevent erosion due to the tides.
He noted the berm project had been completed under budget, costing $36,000 instead of $40,000 — resulting in a savings of about $2,000 for West Hants.
Patterson thanked council for their willingness to help them fund the project.
Windsor Fire Department
Windsor Fire Chief Scott Burgess provided council with an overview of its operations from April 1 to Sept. 4, 2013 as well as touched on some of the activities and events the firefighters have been involved with.
Not including mutual aid calls, they responded to 93 calls for service, amounting to 1,478 hours and 26 minutes of manpower. Of these calls, which account for both the Windsor and West Hants catchment areas, six were structure fires, nine were vehicle fires, 20 were car accidents and one was a chimney fire.
They responded to 13 calls for mutual aid, two of which were water rescues. The mutual aid calls amounted to a total of 757 hours and 40 minutes.
After providing a brief overview of the training, special events and prevention and education campaigns the firefighters have been involved with, Burgess brought up a few items he wanted to clarify some facts on.
The chief noted that despite rumours to the contrary, the WFD executive exists, that the current executive is registered with the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies and that the executive is a “great and dedicated team” that's well-versed in everything from fire and emergency operations to human resources and succession planning.
He also addressed comments he's heard about there being training issues between Windsor and other departments.
“WFD has trained with many fire departments such as Chester, New Ross, Lunenburg, Wolfville, Hantsport, Brooklyn, Summerville, et cetera, in the past few years. WFD continues to do so when schedules permit and is appropriate for our department's needs and requirements at the time of the training,” Burgess said.
He noted that the Nova Scotia Firefighters School's mobile burn unit is one example where the Windsor Fire Department sees more benefit in training in-house rather than with mutual aid partners.
“We identified the importance of training our firefighters to survive for the first 25 to 30 minutes of various types of structure fires. Based on past averaged stats, we recognized that this is usually how long it takes to get the mutual aid departments to our scene and onto the interior hose lines,” explained Burgess.
“It is critical to our WFD firefighters to know how to work side-by-side with fellow WFD firefighters for a minimum of this time. This is life and death situations. It is unrealistic to train with several other departments' firefighters on these initial hose lines and searches because this does not happen in the real world,” he continued.
Burgess said they host the specialized training unit for the Windsor group exclusively for a few days, and continue to offer to host it for other departments to use for a few more days following their initial training. That offer hasn't been taken up in the last few years, he said, as Brooklyn also hosts the unit each year.
As Burgess concluded his report, he said the Windsor Fire Department executive wanted to re-offer to “meet, discuss or negotiate to resolve this ongoing fire service contract issue” with council and staff.