Fire Chief hot under the collar after repeated careless blazes

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
August 25th, 2010

 A public safety situation is getting Castlegar’s normally-mild-mannered fire chief a little hot under the collar.

Chief Gerry Rempel said the fire department has been dealing with a recent rash of abandoned camp fires – five just in the eight-day period between Aug. 15 and 23.
“It’s a real problem – and it’s odd that we’re dealing with so much of it right now,” he said. “It’s incredibly frustrating – the forestry department has been advertising, telling people how dry it is and to extinguish camp fires, but we’re still having to deal with this.”
He said several of the fires were in the area between the old Kinnaird Middle School and Southridge Drive – one of which got into the underbrush and took firefighters four hours to extinguish.
“It could’ve been really bad,” he said, explaining that the fire department’s expertise usually addresses the problem, but unpredictable circumstances such as a windstorm could easily push the fire out of control despite emergency crews’ best efforts. “It’s very dangerous … literally, playing with fire.”
He said the hazards involved can only get worse, as conditions become more and more dry.
“If you don’t want to take two minutes to put out your fire, don’t start it in the first place,” he said, adding the consequences, should you be caught engaging in such careless behaviour, can be huge.
The department can pursue you for the costs of fighting the fire (not to mention the potential lawsuits, should people be hurt or property damaged), you can be ticketed and fined … and all for lack of a few moments’ due dilligence.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Until someone is caught, however, city taxpayers will continue to bear the economic burden of abandoned campfires.
Anyone witnessing, or with information regarding, abandoned campfires in encouraged to call the fire department at 250-365-3266 or, if a fire is under way, 911.

Categories: General