While most of us were enjoying a quiet Christmas break, Ladysmith Fire/Rescue continued to make a variety of calls due to winter driving conditions to help other departments in the area as well as cover ambulance service.
Fire chief Chris Geiger said last year was busier for the department than previous years.
“I have 243 calls on my report, but the control room has us for 250. That means I have a little more work figuring out what the other seven could have been,” he said.
Geiger, who joined the local paid guard duty in 2007, thought it was quite an interesting journey and one that had led to a change in profession and way of life. “I lived across the street from a few ward members,” Geiger said. “And they persuaded me to sign up — that was 15 years ago.”
Geiger joined the Esquimalt Fire Department four years ago. Gaining that experience with a full-time force with fairly new equipment and procedures has given Geiger a broader background as an active firefighter. Two years ago, Geiger was elected chief of Ladysmith Fire/Rescue.
“My work experience as a firefighter in Esquimalt has given me a lot more knowledge and my schedule of four days on and four off gives me much more time to do the part-time job as chief of Ladysmith,” he said.
Geiger said one of his goals is to expand the 25-man division to 30-35. At the moment it is difficult to fully answer all calls, especially during working hours from Monday to Friday, so a few extra members would help with response times. “We’ve never been able to call with enough power, but we really want to make sure we can hold that record,” Geiger said. Locals plan to hold an annual recruitment drive every October, but can apply at any time.
The department responds to a variety of calls, with medical assistance calls accounting for 23 percent of calls in 2021 and motor vehicle incidents (MVI) second at 21 percent. Medical assistance calls are usually intended to assist the ambulance service, although the department may be called for cardiac arrests or if there are delays in the arrival of ambulances. The calls for MVI assistance are mostly for scene control. Members are also trained to use rescue equipment to retrieve victims from wreckage or to allow EMS personnel access to trapped individuals.
According to the Campbell River hotline, member departments handled more than 25,000 calls in 2021, with the busiest times of the day being between 4 and 6 p.m. and the busiest days for emergency calls being Fridays.
Boxing Day was the busiest day of the year for the local chapter. “We covered six motor vehicles in a three-hour period [incidents]’ said Geiger. “They were all due to road conditions and for December we had a total of 14 MVI calls. We didn’t have one in October, so it’s never really the same.”
Keeping members of the department prepared requires a lot of training and procedures are constantly changing, Geiger said. The Provincial Bureau of Fire Commissions publishes a “playbook” that dictates what each individual should know and be able to do. “This is for their own safety as well as for the safety of the public and the victims,” Geiger said.
Every Sunday, the crew of the week on duty ensures that all equipment and gear is tested, activated and working properly, ready for any immediate calls. In 2021, the Ladysmith Corps received a grant to assist with interface fire training. The local branch does not do the actual forest firefighting – they are willing to work on structures that are near the impending fires. The Ladysmith ward has four large rolling firefighters’ outfits, as well as the emergency rescue truck, a utility truck that can pump 250 gallons of water, and the command vehicle.
Emergency CallsLadysmithMotor Vehicle Accident