KAMSACK — As Canadians observe the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 9 to 15), it can be said that the Kamsack Volunteer Fire Department has been called for assistance about once a week over the past year.
Speaking to the Kamsack Times last week, Ken Thompson, Kamsack fire chief, estimated that between 45 and 50 calls for assistance were made to the department since last year’s Fire Prevention Week.
The theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week is "Fire won't wait. Plan your escape," said information on the Week’s website. “Today's homes burn faster than ever. You may have as little as two minutes (or even less time) to safely escape a home fire from the time the smoke alarm sounds.
“Your ability to get out of a home during a fire depends on early warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.”
In total during 2021, the Kamsack brigade responded to 66 calls, of which:
- 11 were to structure fires;
- four to vehicle fires;
- four to outside fires like to garbage bins;
- 10 were to transport incidents;
- four were service calls;
- 15 were because of alarms;
- eight were to vegetation fires;
- six were to pick up sharps;
- two because of electrical hazards;
- one to investigate an odour such as gas or smoke,
- and one extrication.
Of the calls made last year:
- 32 were to places within the Town of Kamsack;
- 14 to Cote First Nation;
- 11 to the RM of Cote;
- one to the RM of Sliding Hills;
- two to Village of Togo,
- and five to Duck Mountain Provincial Park (Madge Lake).
To date in 2022, the brigade attended:
- six structure fires;
- one vehicle fire;
- one outside fire (bin);
- three transport incidents;
- four service calls (when alarms sounded);
- 10 responses for when an alarm company calls with an issue;
- five vegetation fires;
- 10 times to pick up sharps;
- one extrication, and
- four service calls to assist emergency medical services and the coroner.
The biggest fire within the brigade’s jurisdiction over the past year was the barn fire near Runnymede in June, Thompson said, adding that the fire had originated at night and was discovered by the property owner when he went to the site about four miles out of Runnymede the next day.
“It was a fairly new building containing a shop and the barn,” Thompson said. It was totally destroyed, along with 14 head of cattle, tractors and other machinery.
“Probably about a million dollars worth of property was destroyed in that fire.”
Also significant were two house fires at Cote First Nation in July and August, he said, adding that the year previous there had been a rash of three house fires at Cote First Nation for which arson was suspected.
“We didn’t have too many grass fires this year," he said. “The Cote department called us to assist a couple of times and there were about two other minor grass fires.”
Most recently, the brigade was called to a two-vehicle motor vehicle accident two weeks ago to a site located a mile east of Veregin, where the brigade assisted EMS with an extrication of a person who was then transported to hospital in Regina by STARS Air Ambulance.
The jurisdiction of the Kamsack fire department includes Kamsack, the RM of Cote, Duck Mountain Provincial Park and Div. 1 of the RM of Sliding Hills (Veregin). If called by the Cote department, the brigade responds to fire calls within Cote First Nation. There are mutual aid agreements with the villages of Rhein and Pelly.
“During 2021 we helped the RCMP search for a 15-year-old Regina boy who had been lost at Duck Mountain Provincial Park,” he said. Firefighters volunteered their time and took time off work for the three days the search was on.
Thompson said the brigade is visible throughout the year as members attend various community events, including members using a truck for the KCI graduation parade. In the past, the brigade has attended the Christmas and Canada Day parades.
Each year, until the pandemic, school children have been welcomed to tour the Fire Hall, he said.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, the brigade made several kits and when requested, a truck and member would travel to the house of a child celebrating a birthday, and Sparky the Fire Dog would deliver the goody bag on the child’s doorstep.
The brigade is preparing for its third annual “Keep the Wreath Red” fire safety program, he said, explaining that in the program, a large Christmas wreath decorated with red electric lights is hung on the outside of the Fire Hall. Each time the brigade is called to a fire, a red bulb is replaced by a white bulb as a reminder of the fires that affected the community.
“Last year the wreath stayed red, but two years ago, we had to replace one red bulb with a white one,” he said. “Let’s hope we can keep the wreath red this year.”
The program is conducted from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2.
New provincial fire standards were discussed at the fire conference in May and they involved mandatory training for all firefighters, he said. “We’ve started the training and we expect it will take about a year, with training sessions each Wednesday evening, to complete the training for all the members.”
The training involves fire behaviour, fire safety, protective clothing, portable extinguishers, rescue and extrication, ladders, ventilation, water supply, fire hoses, fire streams and fire control.
Firefighters are required to write an exam after completing each module, and if they fail the exam, they must re-take it until they pass.
The Kamsack brigade currently has four firefighters who are doing their Level 1 training, said Thompson, who is a Level 2 fire service instructor. All four passed their exams in March and are preparing to do their practical exams this month before advancing to their Level 2 training.
The Kamsack department has a total of 16 members, including two females, and Thompson said he’d like to see 24 firefighters.
“Anyone, of both sexes and any age, as long as they’re able to complete the training, are welcome to join the brigade,” he said. “You don’t need any specialized training, as training will be provided.”
Thompson said persons interested need only go to the Kamsack Fire Hall on a Wednesday evening, or contact him.
Asked what equipment is needed by the fire department, Thompson said he’d like to see the 1992 firetruck replaced, the tanker truck is an old model and he’d like a new rescue unit.
“There’s always something,” he said, explaining that with the new standards, firefighters’ gear must be replaced every 10 years.
“We’re slowly starting to replace the gear; we ordered two outfits this year.”
To help celebrate the centennial of Fire Prevention Week, the Kamsack brigade is holding a pancake breakfast on Oct. 15 at the Fire Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“Come, enjoy pancakes and sausages, and meet and greet members of the brigade,” Thompson said. After the last pancake breakfast, held pre-pandemic, a donation of $500 was made to Eaglestone Lodge.
Attending this year’s pancake breakfast will be representatives of the Paws and Claws animal rescue organization, which will be showing some of the cats and dogs that are available for adoption and will be encouraging persons to consider donating old towels or blankets that can be used for bedding for animals.
“We’ll also begin selling our 50/50 tickets,” he said. “The draw will be made Dec. 7.”
Among sponsors of the pancake breakfast are: Steven Dutcheshen Photography, Madge Lake Golf Resort, Affinity Credit Union, CanOps (Canadian Public Safety Operations Organization) and the Town of Kamsack.