Left to Right: Deputy Chief Bill Robertson, 4th Lt Monroe Grobe, 1st Lt Steve Vatcher, 2nd Lt Steven Johnson, Billy Robertson, Tyson Smith, Wes Fowler, 2nd Capt. Greg Smith, Stephen Vatcher, Gary LaForge, Tyler Knott, Mark Johnson, Chris Nahirnick, Tyler Hieta, Cory Robertson, 3rd Lt Jim Segee, Fire Chief Doug Knott, Jr Firefighter Hunter Hieta. Kneeling: Ray Bourassa, 1st Capt. Brad Kochanuk, Elija Ellison, Gary Miller, Doug Callsen Absent: 3rd Capt. Bill Hieta, Tom Denninger, Greg Elliott, Adam Elliott, Al Fawcett, Dave Janzen, Devin Loewen, Jessica May, Jr Firefighter Kyle Hieta

Firefighters can’t burn down houses anymore, so they need a training facility

In the old days, everyone gathered to watch a ‘practice fire’, safety regulations won’t allow that now

Can you remember the last time you saw the fire department burn down a house for practice?

Years ago, it was not uncommon, and drew big crowds to watch the firefighters work with various techniques and equipment.

But now, what is called a Class A burn is a thing of the past.

Lake Cowichan Fire Chief Doug Knott asked council for support for a couple of grants his department is applying for to get some new training equipment.

“The problem we’ve had over the years here is we still burned houses. I’ve had a lot of requests for that. Just lately, quite a bit,” he told councillors Aug. 12.

Contaminants coming from such fires are dangerous to both firefighters and nearby residents.

“But, myself, or anyone else who wanted to [burn down a house intentionally] would go to jail with WorkSafe BC. I haven’t burned a house in five years.”

Knott said they’ve been training at a container at the Meade Creek recycling station.

“The regional district has sort of changed the parameters we’re working under, and we’re going to have to pay them something to use that area. One of the things we want to do is purchase a burn-training sea can. We want to put it in a sea can at A.B. Greenwell.

“When the previous engineer was in here, we talked about possibly putting this out near the entrance to the right in an area they wouldn’t be using. But, it’s taken a while to get that property so meantime I was able to work out an agreement with the CVRD.

“But every time we talk to them, it changes, and it would be easier to work within our own government,” he said.

Lake Cowichan firefighters have been going to Courtenay for training.

“Right in the middle of Courtenay they have a brand new 13-sea can system for $1.4 million. I think Parksville has just put one in right in the middle of Parksville, at a cost of $800K.

“The plan would be to move what we have and add one more burn system for a training module for a live fire burn. The first one I looked at was more reasonably priced, about $100K, but we don’t want to use it.

“But, the other one we’d like to try for is over double the cost. We’re waiting for two more quotes. But one quote is about $250K.But it is propane fired, clean. The smoke machine that comes out is clean. It also means that there are no contaminants running out of the building, either,” Knott said.

“This what we’re working towards over the next two years. But, if we got funding, we could possibly purchase it with 50 per cent down.

“Our mutual aid partners would be using it, too. That includes Youbou, Mesachie, Honeymoon Bay and Sahtlam. They’d be able to come and practise with us.”

Through the UBCM and the Cowichan Lake Forest Co-op, there are possible grants in the offing, and the fire department needs council resolutions to apply. The one from the UBCM is $25K and what could be available from the Co-op is unknown so far.

Training for a live fire is difficult for small, volunteer fire departments, he said.

“We’re reliant on these two grants to get into this.”

Knott then explained in reply to a question from Mayor Rod Peters that it would be a two step process: first, get coucil resolutions for the grant applications, and, second, have a discussion about the use of part of the ABG land for training.

He also told council the fire department has to move from Meade Creek.

“They’ve done some studying there. They want us to fence everything in. I haven’t got a budget for that. And they won’t let us burn there. They won’t even discuss it,” he said.

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