Castlegar fire command truck in collision

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 10th, 2010

A car accident involving a Castlegar fire truck Friday afternoon is underlining the risks inherent in “pranks” like setting brush fires and purposely setting off alarms.

Fire chief Gerry Rempel was responding to a call regarding brush fires at 2:20 p.m., when the accident occurred on Columbia Avenue in front of the Sandman Hotel.

No one was hurt in the collision, but he says that’s more luck than good management.

“I’m not blaming anyone – these things happen – but it’s a spin off that sometimes people don’t think about,” he said. “It could’ve been worse, if I had been going faster. I’m just thankful the other driver wasn’t injured.”

He says there have been other close calls – with the urgency and speed required to respond to an emergency, there are unavoidable, inherent dangers.
“We get specialized driver training – not just fire vehicles, but police cars and ambulances, too – all emergency responders,” he says. “But you still have have to be so careful, with other traffic on the road. Some people just don’t know what to do when they see the lights and hear the siren.”

Rempel, with the fire command vehicle, never did make it to the brush fires that afternoon, instead directing fire trucks to the scene and calling for a rescue unit to assist in dealing with the collision.

Meanwhile, police are investigating the fires themselves, which they say appear to be deliberately set, on and around Waldie Trail.

“One of the fires was (about) 50-by-100 feet in diametre, and was on the property which fenced in the sewage lagoons,” said RCMP Sgt. Laurel Mathew. “The fire destroyed some plastic piping which feeds the water from the lagoon into the chlorine contact chamber of the treatment centre.

“Two other, smaller fires were located along the river-bank portion of the trail.”
City director of Public Works Chris Barlow said the chlorine storage area itself was never in jeopardy, as the toxic, flammable chemicals are safely stored in an isolated building with built-in fire safety precautions.

Police are asking anyone with information about the fires to contact the Castlegar detachment at 250-365-7721 … and Rempel is asking residents to be aware of the potential risk of fire during such a dry spring season.

He says the department has already answered calls regarding bush and party fires during spring break, and cautions that the risk factor is much higher than most people realize.

“It’s getting drier – the fires Friday were starting to reach a considerable size,” he said, adding responding to preventable issues like these does increase the risk of accidents like Friday’s, as well as keeping emergency crews busy – which could be problematic if other emergent situations arise.

Categories: General


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