Fire Chief’s summer report

Fire Chief Rick Jackson

Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department

Tuesday, August 16 2016

This is the first year we have had a seasonal fire ban and our burning complaint calls appear to be down significantly.  

Cleaner air and less stress seems to be a welcome payback and most people I have talked to feel it was a good move.  

Propane fireplaces, with a maximum 6” flame height, and propane and briquette barbecues or hibachis are not restricted but fire safety precautions are still essential.

As the summer weather continues to dry things out, the island will be moving toward “early shift” and eventually to “shutdown” if necessary. All pertinent information regarding these restriction levels can be found at

If you smell smoke in your neighbourhood, go and investigate. Try to find the source of the smoke. If you can’t find the fire but you smell smoke (in summer when fires are banned on the island) call 911 so that we can come and help find the fire.

It’s better to call us than to wonder just where that smoke smell is coming from. 

Prior to the structure fire last week on Sansom, some people reported smelling smoke way before the smouldering items burst into flame. If they had traced the source of the smoke, or called us, it is likely this fire could have been extinguished before it spread beyond the garbage can.

Oil-soaked rags should not go in a garbage can

The structure fire on Sansom and Dunshire began in a plastic garbage can which contained items that were left-over from a house painting project. Those items began to smoulder then finally burst into flame. (This sort of spontaneous combustion is common when oil and other types of chemicals are soaked into rags.) The garbage can was against a shed, which then caught fire, quickly spreading flames to nearby trees.

The fire then spread to the neighbouring house which was saved, but sustained significant damage from flames climbing the wall and entering the attic space.

All of this was determined by watching the security cam footage from the scene.

This is a good time to remind community members about these key points:

Oil-soaked rags, or rags left over from painting projects. should not go into a garbage can. They should be stored in a metal container, away from anything flammable, until they can be safely disposed of. 

Piles of chipped trees have also been known to spontaneously combust, and should be spread out 6” deep, and/or the piles monitored.

This was a classic example of a tree spreading fire to another structure, and is the reason we ask people to be “fire smart” on their properties to create defensible spaces.

Call volume for July

First responder (medical): 22

Fire pages: 2

Motor vehicle incidents: 1

Burn complaints: 1

Nice to have a summer with virtually no smoke complaints.

Green lights being acquired

The Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District trustees are promoting an experiment where a number of fire department personnel will be using green flashing lights on their vehicle roof in conjunction with four-way flashers to inform other traffic that they are fire department members responding to a call.

While the green lights give no privileges, it is hoped they will assist the responders in attending callouts in a timely fashion by improving their visibility to other drivers. The lights are still being sourced. Even after the green lights have arrived, there will still be emergency responders using only the four-way flashers on their vehicles when responding to an emergency. Please watch for them, and allow them to pass when safe to do so.