Several emergency vehicles including fire trucks, police, an ambulance and a BC Wildfire crew responded to a barn fire, in this photo on the right hand side of 40th Street NE, in Salmon Arm on Tuesday afternoon, June 29. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

Several emergency vehicles including fire trucks, police, an ambulance and a BC Wildfire crew responded to a barn fire, in this photo on the right hand side of 40th Street NE, in Salmon Arm on Tuesday afternoon, June 29. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

Year in Review: Pandemic, heat wave put firefighters to the test

Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley reflects on 2021, looks to year ahead

  • Dec. 24, 2021 5:00 p.m.

By Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley

For me, 2021 was a bit of a blur.

Continuing with COVID-19 concerns at the beginning of the year and keeping our firefighters safe was and will always be our number one priority.

We all followed protocols put in place by the province, the city and with recommendations from the Fire Chiefs Association of BC, we were able to keep everyone safe and healthy maintaining the great fire response our community relies on.

We continued with virtual training until May, which put some strain on the membership and our training department. The result of not meeting face to face I would say took a bit of a toll on the camaraderie, which is so valuable in an emergency organization such as ours.

I can’t thank our training department enough for adapting and presenting great content to our firefighters over this time.

Finally, in May we resumed regular face-to-face training including FireSmart activities and preparing for the wildfire season.

Who knew then we would endure such loss in the province and be so busy?

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, some of our public education activities had to be cancelled including the Home Show and our booth at Salmon Arm Fair.

Read more: Workshops, collector automobiles destroyed in fire at Salmon Arm property

Read more: Person found torching weeds prompts public reminder, warning from Salmon Arm fire chief

Late June saw the heat wave and a significant structure fire on one of the summer’s hottest days. This certainly was challenging given the heat and having a number of our firefighters be transported to hospital by ambulance. It wasn’t a nice day for anyone, especially the fire chief who is ultimately responsible for them all. Fortunately they suffered only minor heat stroke and with the assistance of our SEP and mutual aid partners, we were able to contain this fire to the main structures involved and neighboring properties that had grass and brush ignite from this fire.

Then as all aware, multiple fires throughout the province started occurring. It was then time to assist and start deploying apparatus and manpower.

Our crews and fire apparatus from Salmon Arm were deployed a total of 41 days, throughout the province and other Salmon Arm firefighters were deployed with our partners in Shuswap Emergency Programs’ structural protection units.

I also had the pleasure of working with the SEP Team in the local Emergency Operations Center serving as Ops Chief for a few days. It was a great experience and it again reminded me what a fantastic team we have with the Shuswap Emergency Program who deal with such catastrophic events with such dedication and proficiency.

Fall seem to come quick and with Covid numbers rising, and in again keeping our firefighters safe and healthy, we reverted back to online training

Throw in annual City budget development and deliberations, ongoing work with construction of new platform truck, Fire Prevention week activities, smoke alarm program and some great work from our paid on-call members with community events such as the Fill the Fire Truck Toy Drive, and here we are, counting down the days to the end of the year!

I’m just extremely grateful for all the support from mayor and council, all our emergency services partners, residents of Salmon Arm and most importantly, our paid on-call firefighters.

Thankfully, in 2021 all our firefighters remained safe and healthy and our community didn’t sustain any major losses of life and or property damage.


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