Tofino’s volunteer firefighters: back row

Tofino’s new Fire Chief big on training

“My primary focus for the first six months has been trying to make sure we have real clear training objectives."

NORA O’MALLEY

nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

 

Brent Baker, former manager of West Coast Aquatic Safaris, was appointed Tofino Volunteer Fire Department  Chief in May of 2016. Previous Fire Chief John Gilmour stepped down from his official leadership role, but still remains active within the Department.

Baker brings five years of firefighting experience to the full-time District of Tofino position.

The former Fire Lieutenant said his new title is actually Manager of Protective Services, which incorporates Bylaw as well as Fire Chief.

Twenty-five per cent of his time will be spent looking after the bylaw team, with the remaining 75 per cent dedicated to Fire Hall duties.

“My primary focus for the first six months has been trying to make sure we have real clear training objectives and a plan to get as many people through that full service level of standards as quickly as possible,” said Baker.

He hopes that by this Christmas or February 2017 at least half of the department will have completed the professional firefighter qualifications.

“We  are considered a full service fire department, which means we have really high standards of training levels that we have to achieve and maintain. It’s quite an extensive program. It takes a couple of years for people to get through with the amount of courses and exams that all of our members have to do,” he said.

Baker noted that provincial standards for fire departments have changed considerably over the past couple of years.

According to the Justice Institute of British Columbia, a new firefighter training standard called the “Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook” was released in September 2014.

Deputy Fire Chief Billy McGinnis has been a serving Tofino as a volunteer firefighter for 11 years.

“We’re definitely training to a different standard now,”  McGinnis said.

“It’s good to have a playbook to go by for training so everybody is training at the same sort of level. Back in the old days it was a little looser,” he said.

“It’s all accredited so at the end of the day you’ll have your firefighter level II which is the same training you’d have if you were going for a paid position in Vancouver or anywhere else that has a paid hall.”

Fire Chief Baker expects call volume to surpass 200 this year.

“About 60 per cent of our calls are medical calls. We respond to a lot of calls that B.C. ambulance also gets tasked out to. We work with them an awful lot,” he said.

“Through the summer months, unfortunately, we get a lot of unattended beach fires; things like that. Stuff that could easily be avoided with a bit more education of the public.”

Deputy Chief McGinnis said the public shouldn’t be scared to make that call.

“It’s better to call for a fire department before you need it than 15-minutes after you need it…Because you can always call back and say, Stand down I didn’t really need it,” McGinnis told the Westerly.

“Time definitely matters in fire or life safety.”

For Fire Prevention Week (Oct.9-15), the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department is hosting an Open House on Saturday, October 15 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Fire Hall.

“We’ll have a number of firefighters here that are bringing people in and showing them the trucks,” he said.

“We love it when people come in and ask about their fire extinguishers and smoke alarms. We want people to ask questions so that we can try and create an opportunity to offer as much information about fire prevention in the home and workplace.”

Tofino’s new Fire Chief said he feels a tremendous amount of support from the community and is looking forward to the constant challenges and training opportunities the role brings.

“Every day is a new day,” Baker said.