Working with youth is the key to successful fire prevention, said Williams Lake’s new fire chief.
“If we catch them young, then they will always think of fire prevention,” said WLFD Fire Chief Erick Peterson.
This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.”
“LOOK” for places fire could start. Take a good look around your home. Identify potential fire hazards and take care of them.
“LISTEN” for the sound of the smoke alarm. You could have only minutes to escape safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Go to your outside meeting place, which should be a safe distance from the home and where everyone should know to meet.
“LEARN” two ways out of every room and make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are free of clutter.
Peterson practices what he preaches, teaching his own young children, 8 and 6 years old, to know the exits when at any large public venues such as arenas.
“You should always be aware of your surroundings at all times,” he said.
Peterson took on the role of fire chief in Williams Lake in July. His wife Megan and children have also since settled into life in the lakecity now too.
Prior to being in Williams Lake, Peterson worked at the Delta Fire Department where firefighters responded to upwards of eight drug overdoses in just one night.
He said the opioid crisis has been very challenging and has taken its toll on emergency responders.
“It puts such a strain on everyone, B.C. Ambulance, hospital workers, police — everyone.”
The WLFD does not take part in first responder calls as they do in larger centres where there are paid, full-time firefighters.
“Here, we’re trying not to burn out our paid on-call members. They all have other jobs.”
Members of the WLFD respond to between 300 and 350 call outs per year for emergencies such as fires, motor vehicle incidents, reports of carbon monoxide or gas leaks and alarms.
Peterson said firefighting work brings a new challenge every day and offers members a strong sense of community.
Currently there are eight new recruits going through training in the WLFD with a few more spots to fill in January.
He said there are many advantages to being a firefighter, including receiving specialized training, getting the ability to command and lead, and, of course, the camaraderie.
Read More: Smiles galore at fire department open house
“We look out for each other. We take care of each other.”
With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder of great concern, Peterson said firefighters are trained to recognize the signs of PTSD among members and start conversations. In the Cariboo, they are taking that training one step further by creating a regional support system between fire departments in Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House so if members are more comfortable talking with someone outside of their own department, they have that option.
Peterson said Fire Prevention Week is a good time for residents to talk about a fire escape plan with everyone in your home.
Make sure your home has working smoke alarms on each floor. Know the emergency number for your fire department.
Lastly, and most importantly, practice your home fire drill regularly.