All Hands on Deck

November 17, 2021
Council Column

As a seventeen year-old signalman in the Canadian Navy, I experienced an actual “all hands on deck” event when the ship I was serving on was involved in a rescue mission off Masset. We were trying to find a fishing boat that had issued an S.O.S. but, our ship’s radar was down, the boat was somewhere in the middle of a fishing fleet, and we were in pea-soup thick fog. Fortunately, the seas were relatively calm, a rarity for that part of B.C.’s coast.

In order to transit safely through the fishing fleet we needed every crew member up on deck to lookout for and report any vessel sightings, as we had no “electronic eyes” to guide us through the sizeable flotilla. When we found the boat we were looking for and rescued its severely injured captain, everyone on board took great pride in our truly collective effort.

While few people get to experience an actual “all hands on deck” event on board a ship, we all know what the phrase means, and we all have a sense of the collective effort that such events would demand of us.

Last week, our volunteer fire crews experienced just such an event.

Early Tuesday afternoon, a fire started in West Fraser’s log yard along the Quesnel-Hixon road, near the MDF Plant. Initially, the City’s volunteer fire department deployed to fight the fire, but it soon became clear that more help would be needed, especially as the fire threatened to cross the road and the City’s cemetery was also at risk.

Fortunately, the City of Quesnel has mutual aid agreements with the Cariboo Regional District’s volunteer fire departments (VFDs) in the communities surrounding the municipality. These mutual aid agreements allow our VFDs to cooperate and support each other during fire events; expanding our collective firefighting capacity beyond the individual capacity of each VFD in the area.

Both the Bouchie Lake and Barlow Creek VFDs assisted the City’s VFD to fight the log yard fire, along with some fire fighters from the BC Forest Service. The fire trucks and equipment from the three VFDs were supplemented with equipment provided by West Fraser, and some contracted heavy equipment as well.

While these three VFDs were fully engaged with the West Fraser log yard fire, a residential fire in West Quesnel was reported and needed immediate action as well. Two more volunteer fire departments were called on to deal with this conflagration: Kerlsey VFD and West Fraser VFD. (10 Mile Lake Fire Department was placed on tactical alert in case any other calls were received that needed extra support on the north end of town.)

Ultimately, both the log yard fire and the residential fire were controlled and then extinguished – a testament to the training and professionalism of all of our VFDs!

On behalf of Quesnel City Council, I want to thank our Fire Department staff and all of the VFD volunteers from all of the communities that responded to last week’s fires. It was truly an “all hands on deck” event and, without question, your collective effort limited the damage to the log yard and to the residential property, a major accomplishment given the nature of both fires.

By the way: all of our VFDs need more volunteers. If you are interested in joining these great teams, and playing a key role in protecting your community, please reach out to your local VFD today, and begin your journey to becoming a volunteer fire fighter.

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