Williams Lake's new fire chief Des Webster says if he can become half the fire chief

Williams Lake's new fire chief Des Webster says if he can become half the fire chief

Webster takes the wheel as new fire chief

If he becomes half the fire chief Randy Isfeld was, Williams Lake’s new fire chief Des Webster said he’ll be OK.

  • Sep. 19, 2013 7:00 p.m.

If he becomes half the fire chief Randy Isfeld was, Williams Lake’s new fire chief Des Webster said he’ll be OK.

“For the last few months he’s been mentoring me in how to take the transition as fire chief. He’s been a great guy to work for, I can’t say enough,” Webster said of longtime former Fire Chief Randy Isfeld, who retired earlier this year. “He will be sorely missed not just by me, but everybody. He was a firefighter’s chief.”

Isfeld is the reason Webster got into firefighting.

“When I first started as a volunteer it didn’t take me too long to realize this is what I wanted for a career,” he said.

At the time he was working for public works and also as a paid-on-call firefighter. He visited Isfeld and asked what he thought the future of the fire department would be.

Webster learned the position of fire inspector would be opening up because Isfeld was doing it as well as being the fire training officer and it had become too much work.

“I went out and qualified myself over the next two years and sure enough when the job came up I was able to apply.”

Isfeld mentored Webster from that day on — first as fire inspector, then as deputy chief.

As he eases into the chief’s role, Webster said there will always be challenges around budgets. That won’t change.

“The department will look for ways to generate revenue through fee service,” he said.” A lot of the stuff we do is not considered to be the regular service we provide to the city. Many departments charge for the things that we’ve been doing for free.”

One of those would be recuperating costs for responding to a Hazmat call by whoever the transporter was. Responding to Hazmat spills is not considered a normal part of the service the department provides, it’s an added service, Webster said.

For five years the Williams Lake fire department has had a functional Hazmat team.

“It’s important because there is a lot of industry in the city and a lot of rail and road transport coming through with many types of hazardous material,” Webster said. “Some of it is bad stuff and we decided years ago we needed to put ourselves in a position to deal with it. If we didn’t the closest team was going to have to come from either Prince George or Kamloops to help mitigate a spill.”

Everyone in the department is trained to one or two levels of Hazmat training which ensures if the fire department is called to a scene a full crew can respond.

Williams Lake has also made a request to the province to be a regional Hazmat team so it can be deployed outside the area if need be. “Again that would be on a fee-for-service basis.”

Had the agreement been in place in January 2013 when the transport truck overturned on Highway 97 at Wildwood spilling hazardous material used in mine blasting applications, Williams Lake could have been called out by the province to assist.

With Webster moving into the chief’s spot, Rob Warnock, already the training officer, is deputy chief and Joan Flaspohler is fire inspector.

Normally the department has three full-time firefighters and 40 paid-on-call firefighters. Right now there are 37 so at the beginning of 2014 they will hire four more paid-on-call.

Webster said they’ve been lucky over the last few years and managed to get several good new recruits to pick from and all have turned out to be good firefighters.

There has been a trend of fewer people expressing interest because the time commitment is “huge.”

“People don’t realize that when they come to a meeting. People think we’re a paid-on call department and that it’s come to a call and come to a practice, but it’s more.”

In 2013, he anticipates the department will respond to 400 calls, plus practice nights, meetings and training.

Last year they had just under 300 calls. “We’re at 250 this year already. That’s everything. False alarms, MVIs, grass fires, that’s every call.”

When it comes to rating arson in Williams Lake, Webster chose “minor.” There’s the odd fire that’s suspicious, but it’s not very common, he said.

Tragic fires can have an impact so firefighters can have access to grief counsellors if they need.

“They will come in and do debriefs for the guys. We’ve done that a few times through my career, but for the most part we talk among ourselves and keep checking on everyone within the department.” And there are signs to look for to ensure someone isn’t experiencing critical stress days or weeks after the incident.

Assessing health concerns is always part of the routine as well.

“We don’t go anywhere near a building without breathing apparatus,” Webster explained.

B.C. Ambulance will attend every fire — to attend to any occupants and to attend to the firefighters.

After two air bottles, a firefighter has to be checked by an ambulance attendant.  “They check your vitals. If it’s really hot out, then after one air bottle, you get checked out.”

“The persona of the macho ‘I don’t need to go see the ambulance I’m good’ days are gone, you go whether you’re told to go or it’s your turn.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The wind has been gusting Friday, March 5 in Williams Lake with the risk of a thunderstorm in the forecast for later in the afternoon. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
More than 500 customers in Cariboo without power, risk of thunderstorm Friday afternoon

The BC Hydro map is adding more power outages as the afternoon unfolds

The two suspects arrested south of 150 Mile House Tuesday, March 2, following a high-speed chase with the RCMP have been charged. (Will Roberts photo)
High-speed chase suspects charged, remain in custody after arrest south of Williams Lake

John Craig and Maggie M. Higgott appeared in Williams Lake Provincial Court March 4

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Many members of the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club (pictured) have teamed up with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society to host a free ski in celebration of World Water Day. (Patrick Davies photo - Black Press Media)
Conservation society, cross country ski club, celebrate World Water Day with free ski March 6

The free ski will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 6 at Bull Mountain

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read