The Williams Lake Fire Department had a busy year in 2020. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

The Williams Lake Fire Department had a busy year in 2020. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake Fire Department responds to 330 calls in 2020

Chief Erick Peterson provided the year in review at the committee of the whole meeting

The Williams Lake Fire Department responded to 330 calls for service in 2020, up from 304 in 2019.

Fire Chief Erick Peterson provided council with a report at the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, April 20, showing the top calls in order were fire alarm commercial at 67, motor vehicle incidents with no entrapment at 64, fire alarm residential at 56 and structure fires at 25, compared to 33 in 2019.

“We are a very active fire department and we are getting lots of experience,” he told council, noting in 2021 they have responded to 105 calls already.

Burnt food from cooking accounted for the vast majority of the false alarm calls, and while false, Erickson said the argument can be made smoke detectors were working appropriately.

Outlining future activities planned for the department, he talked about the controlled burns that took place at Boitanio Park and the Stampede Grounds to reduce wildfire risk, working with the BC Wildfire Service.

“It was a great success, they did a really good job,” Erickson said. noting the air venting wasn’t going to get any better than it was Tuesday so they wanted to take advantage of it.

Mayor Walt Cobb said he was pleased with the controlled burn and thanked everyone involved.

Read more: Fire department, wildfire service, conducting controlled burns in Boitanio Park, Stampede Grounds April 20

A fire officer refrigeration awareness course was taught at the Cariboo Memorial Complex the second week of April and the city will be hosting a regional engine boss training course as part of the provincial structural protection training program in May, and in June the city will be hosting S115, the Site Preparation and Structure Protection in the Urban Interface in collaboration with the office of the fire commissioner for the Williams Lake Fire Department members.

Service awards were given to department members and included: 2020 — Jason Chamberlin, Bill Page, Trevor Shick for 15 years, Don Firth and Kathy Ferguson for 20 years and in 2021 Skylar McCarthy and Kevin Heppner will achieve five years, Greg Ford 10 years and Kevin Bernier 20 years.

“I want to thank all my paid-on-call families for letting me have them,” Erickson said.

Recruitment of six to eight new members is underway with an aim to have 43 total paid on call members.

“We have just completed the interview process and I think we have eight candidates I am going to be calling in the next few days,” Erickson said, noting the department is seeing a turnover rate of 11.5 per cent yearly since 2017, mostly due to firefighters moving for jobs.

Following the 2021 hire, nearly 50 per cent of the department will have less than five years of experience and it takes approximately two years and more than $5,000 to train paid on call firefighters.

Read more: Early morning fire at Pioneer Complex in Williams Lake under investigation

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