Gabriola leading RDN in use of FireSmart grants

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, June 24 2020

Gabriola Fire Chief Will Sprogis said there has been a huge uptake from the community on the “red bin” grant program being funded through the RDN.

This program gives people an option to burning materials that they are clearing: they can FireSmart their properties.

Property owners get the free use of a roll-off bin (oversized dumpster) after four neighbouring properties have gotten together and had their properties assessed by the GVFD.

Sprogis said since the program started earlier this year, there have been 70 assessments done on the island, with 40 properties working actively on FireSmarting their homes.

“We dropped off 10 bins. Each bin did five properties.”

He said this past Wednesday that the RDN is going to release another $6,500 for Gabriola where there is a waiting list.

To put the uptake on Gabriola into perspective, Cedar had two bins filled, Nanoose had one, and Spider Lake had two.

Rotation in training officer

Sprogis said Captain Jethro Baker has stepped down as training officer for the GVFD, but will be staying on as North Hall Captain.

“I would like to thank Jethro for his years of service as training officer; it’s sad to lose him as training officer.”

Kitt Stringer was introduced as the new training officer for the fire hall - Stringer comes to Gabriola having worked with fire departments in Vic Royal, Shawnigan Lake and on the Victoria Fire Department for 10 years.

Sprogis said, “Kitt brings a great perspective from the professional side and volunteer - so it’s great to be able to bounce ideas off someone who’s worked alongside other firefighters.”

Pandemic measures cause drop in GVFD callout numbers

The Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department has seen a drop in call volume since COVID-19 pandemic measures were put in place by BC Emergency Health Services (BC EHS) to limit the potential exposure of emergency responders to COVID-19.

Sprogis said overall call volume for the period March 1 to May 31 in 2020 saw 63 callouts for service, 19 of which were to respond to medical calls with BC EHS.

The same time period in 2019 saw 99 total callouts, with 66 callouts for medical response.

Another change due to COVID has been the formation of three platoons within the GVFD, which rotate being on call for one week, and then off for two weeks. The two weeks off gives people the 14 days to see if they present with any colds or illnesses.

The on-call platoon is the first platoon paged out when the GVFD is called. Sprogis said if the incident is large and more people are required, they can page out the rest of the fire department as required.

He said the system has worked so well during the pandemic, that the GVFD will be maintaining the platoons after the COVID crisis has ended.

“It will help with retention and burnout, people feel like they get time off...it has gotten positive feedback, people feel rested.”