Province calls on PAFD for forest fire protection

PAFD called upon by province to provide initial attack response for regional fires.

With the Alberni Valley at an extreme fire danger rating, the Port Alberni Fire Department (PAFD) has been called upon by the province to provide an initial attack response to any fires in the region.

“The province is on the verge of a wildfire crisis right now,” fire Chief Tim Pley told city council on Monday night. “All indications are that we’re going to see a very bad fire season.”

The city saw some fires on Tuesday, with lightning hitting the Catalyst Paper steam plant and igniting a gas line.

Pley said that the fire was contained by the mill’s staff and was put out swiftly by the PAFD.

The fire department was also out answering a multitude of false alarms due to fire alarms going off from power spikes.

Environment Canada reported 135 lightning strikes on Vancouver Island, and alberniweather.ca moderator Chris Alemany said many of them were concentrated in the Alberni Valley region.

While Pley got the go ahead from council to pursue an agreement with the Wildfire Management Branch, as of Tuesday he’s not sure if the deal will go through.

“It’s better than a 50-50 chance,” he said, “we think they need to be here [in the Alberni Valley.]”

The agreement would also put the PAFD on standby for 10 hours a day at a rate of $200 per hour, while time spent responding to fires in the region would bring in $450 per hour. The agreement would also see the PAFD prioritize fires within Port Alberni.

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