While 2017 will go down as his biggest year yet because of the wildfires, Fire Chief Stan McCarthy is aiming to keep going until he has 40 years in with the 150 Mile House Volunteer Fire Department.
“I’m the last of the founding members who started the fire department in 1981,” McCarthy said. “Once I reach 40 years then I hope to become the maintenance man.”
During an award ceremony held before Christmas, McCarthy received the Most Improved Firefighter award.
“It only took me 38 years to get it,” he said chuckling.
Alongside McCarthy, firefighters Sierra Schmid and Sharlene Bast also received recognition.
They were the first recipients of a new Above and Beyond award that was created and sponsored by Jason Davis of Spider Rope and Access Rescue. Davis is also a member of the fire department.
Schmid and Bast received the award for their outstanding commitment to the fire department and their remarkable efforts during the 2017 wildfires, McCarthy said, noting he also accepted an award from the provincial government recognizing the entire department’s efforts last summer.
Praising his department, the chief said 2017 was busy year.
From January through March his crew took fire officer courses, which he said helped “greatly” in the wildfires because they were quite organized.
“We do interior attacks in our fire department, and part of that involves incident command and fire officer training so we can carry out our duties better,” he explained. “Because we were so organized with that, we received lots of help from the BC Wildfire Service and the Office of the Fire Commissioner when the wildfires came.”
In the first weekend of May, as they do every year, the department hosted firefighter training.
A total of 128 people from the Cariboo Regional District fire departments and other communities from all over B.C. participated.
One day one of the firefighters noticed a man laying in the ditch on the side of the road.
He was riding a bicycle when he had a heart attack, had no pulse and was not breathing.
“We went there, gave him CPR and shocked him with a defibrillator and today the guy’s back to work at Mount Polley,” McCarthy said.
Another call saw the department respond to a care carrier fire at 140 Mile.
“There were a few of us, but that was Sierra Schimd’s first fire and she did really well. We put that out fairly quickly,” he added.
On July 7 the wildfires hits, forcing the evacuation order of the 150 Mile area.
“We dealt with that for quite a long time and during that fire we did not do first responder calls because people were supposed to be evacuated, but we did have to attend an RCMP member that passed out on a road block and we had to assist him.”
They also attended when a young man was coming through heading toward the hospital because he’d had an allergic reaction to a bee sting.
“We got some medical attention for him.”
There was also a hay baler that caught fire on Mission Road during the evacuation.
When the fire dept. attended they managed to put the fire out and contain it to the Mission Road, which McCarthy said was “really fortunate.”
There was a fire in a bedroom early August at Williams Lake Indian Band after residents were allowed back in, but it was contained to the bedroom.
A highlight of the wildfires was the gift of two firetrucks — from Pioneer Log Homes general manager Bryan Reid Sr. and master craftsman Bryan Reid Jr.
“We installed new doors at the hall because the trucks were too tall,” McCarthy added.
Ocean Trucking donated two metal storage containers and Spectra Energy donated one container that the fire department will use to construct a training building.
“We’ve got the ground work done and after our training in May we will go full steam ahead to finish.”
Chemo RV donated $19,000 to the department, and Pius Marty from Lost 40 Ranch donated the building of a new porch and set of stairs on the community hall.
“I’m really proud of our fire department,” McCarthy said. “We have been really busy with first responder calls and trying to catch up after the fires.”
With the spring forecast calling for dry and hot again this summer, the department is planning on installing three new water sources in the area.
“I’ve got quite a few tanks buried around the community now and I hopefully I get a dry hydrant on Eagle Lake on Pigeon road and we are making arrangements to get a hydrant and an electric pump put in at Vantage Point Estates.”
McCarthy said Darrell Williamson, who lives nearby, will be donating some easement on his land for the new hydrant.