Deputy Chief Reg Gustafson

Terry Warren and the fire chiefs don’t play with fire prevention

At first the long string of trucks coming down the highway looks like a parade of fire fighters; most trucks are emblazoned with a regional emblem declaring which region they are representing. These aren’t the pump trucks trundling down the road on a grey first Saturday in October, though. The crested convoy carry the fire chiefs from all of the Kootenays who are about to converge on the Nakusp fire fighters’ training ground near Brouse Loop.

At first the long string of trucks coming down the highway looks like a parade of fire fighters; most trucks are emblazoned with a regional emblem declaring which region they are representing. These aren’t the pump trucks trundling down the road on a grey first Saturday in October, though. The crested convoy carry the fire chiefs from all of the Kootenays who are about to converge on the Nakusp fire fighters’ training ground near Brouse Loop.

This past weekend, Kootenay fire chiefs gathered to test a new fire-fighting foam. The chiefs gathered around the salesman who gave his pitch about the foam being the most environmentally friendly product available, with a non-corrosive, non-toxic formula that is water based with food-grade ingredients, and can be used for any kind of fire.

But the chiefs didn’t come here to listen to the spiel, they were here to set things on fire and see it in action before they put their money down.

“Light it up!” one chief encouraged.

The foam was tried on fires started on wood, a car, tires and pure fuel.

In a funny twist, Nakusp fire fighters were starting fires, Reg Gustafson standing over the burnables and coaxing them to get going with a jerry can of gasoline.

The grey day hadn’t dampened any spirits; there was lots of fuel for jokes, and the chiefs traded them freely as they waited for the fires to be lit.

The first fire was a bit of a let down, with only a small corner of a giant pile of wood getting burned, but the car was far more dramatic.

At first, the closed car just filled with smoke.

“That’s like all the cars driving away from Shambhala,” the Salmo fire chief joked.

When the door was open to feed oxygen to the fire, it ripped along, breaking the front windshield and shooting flames out. Reading the temperature with a hand-held thermal imaging device, the fire fighters waited until the temperature was over 900 degrees, and then they were on it, putting it out in no time.

Putting out a fire is more than getting rid of flames, and the fighters worked on the car until it was completely extinguished.

Next, Nakusp’s own tire fire was started up. The Salmo chief told me that tires are one of the most dangerous parts of a car in terms of fire. The pressurized air in the tire causes them to blow out like all-season radial bombs. And although they take a while to catch fire, once they’re going, they’re very difficult to extinguish.

As the wind shifted, moving the column of smoke, the fire chiefs moved too, knowing very well the toxic nature of the smoke they can encounter.

The fire fighters, in their full suits and masks, took down the tire fire extremely quickly again.

But the fire prevention campaign isn’t focusing on tires or cars this year, it’s targeting house fires and family safety.

House fires are the third leading cause of death among children — mostly as a result of smoke inhalation.

Kids start 30 per cent of these fires. Such sobering statistics illustrate the need for fire safety education among young people.

The Nakusp & District Vol. Fire Department is offering local Kindergarten to Grade 5 students the opportunity to participate in an educational fire safety program designed to prevent fire-related injuries and fatalities.

The materials have been provided thanks to the generous support of local businesses and organizations. An excellent resource for parents too, the programs contain important information and web sites for more help.

 

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