In early April HIFR got word that Air Ambulance were ceasing night operations to Hornby Island due to safety concerns. We immediately realized the significant negative effect that would have on the well being of our community and got to work. When representatives of Helijet and BC Ambulance flew in to talk a week later, we not only had a solid plan, but we had already mitigated some of their concerns.
Three significant changes were made in the way that we’ve conducted night time helicopter operations:
We changed the landing zone location, which required fixing up an old access road.
We purchased 22 portable landing lights and are investigating funding to offset the significant purchase price.
We reprogrammed a number of our radios to better communicate with the incoming helicopter.
On our May 18 fire practice we did a trial run where we set up our new landing zone system.
Helijet was able to free up a helicopter just before midnight and flew up to check out our improvements. There are still a few tweaks to make the system better, but we’ve just received notice that night operations are back!
A good number of people helped make this happen:
Dan Hamilton had just done a full day of tree work when I called him to help remove a few trees from our access road. He didn’t hesitate to help and I met him 20 minutes later to start the work. Dan refused payment for that work.
Stani, our Depot Manager, let us dump several truck loads of slash from the clearing free of charge.
BC Ambulance and Helijet have been extremely responsive in helping us restore this important service. They gave us detailed guidelines, lent us landing zone lights, and have flown up here twice to help plan and test.
Chris Lefevre, who owns the land and built the airstrip, has been so incredibly generous with allowing us to not only use the airstrip, but has given us free reign to make changes to improve safety and access.
The firefighters of HIFR who gave up a weekend to clear the access road and haul away slash… and who also waited until past midnight on our practice night to get the pilot feedback… and who also will come out any day or night, no matter the time or weather, to set up the landing zone and shuttle medical crew and patient between the landing zone and the clinic.
Every year HIFR is asked to investigate several abandoned 911 calls. We’ve already done two this year. These are the most risky calls that we do and we sometimes flat out refuse to attend. We just never know what is happening. It could be a heart attack or a home invasion… A fire or a domestic dispute with a weapon.
I was sorting though a bunch of papers in the office today and came across this gem from 1990. I’m not sure who took it. Most of our photos around here were taken by Bob Cain but this doesn’t have his stamp on it. I hope it may serve as a reminder to ensure that your camp fires are out when you leave them. We don’t want a repeat of that event anywhere on Hornby, ever again.
Chief Doug Chinnery and Deputy Chief Quana Parker met at the Lefevre airstrip with representatives of Helijet and BC Ambulance to discuss safety and efficiency improvements for night time air evacuations. There were three main concerns:
lack of appropriate landing zone lights
unavailable communication channels between the agencies
inability of HIFR to get trucks close enough to the landing zone in the wet months
We believe that we have hammered out solutions to all of the problems:
We have procured a loan of portable landing zone lights until we can purchase our own.
We are reprogramming our portable radios to access the appropriate frequencies.
We will be brushing out an old access road and bringing in some gravel to get us closer to where the pilots want to land.
Once we have all the concerns addressed we will do a practice to ensure that all of the systems can be deployed efficiently. Helijet will then schedule a practice run where we will run through a multi agency practice run testing out all aspects of the new procedures.
Huge thanks to the four great folks that came up to ensure that night time air evacs are as safe as they can be. Also, thanks to Ken Craig of BC Ambulance for the loan of the landing zone lights. And special thanks, as always, to Chris Lefevre for his extremely generous gift to our community… the use of his air strip for medical emergencies.
The entire Hornby community is invited to Giff’s retirement party on May 13th at noon. We’d love to host everyone at the new fire hall but we’re not sure that it’ll be ready so… the old fire hall is the location. There’ll be cake, tea, coffee, and some finger foods although if you have something that you can contribute we’d be very appreciative. Please come and help us honour Giff’s many years of dedicated public service.
Too often we end up going to the same locations for our Thursday evening practices. It would be great if we had a few spots where we could run a practice, especially a place where we haven’t been in the last few years.
If you are a home owner and would be comfortable having HIFR conduct a practice at your house there are many benefits:
We’d become familiar with your property, your buildings, and the best ways to access them,
We’d be able to give you some pointers on how to better fire proof your property for the dry summer season,
We’d be able to determine if your home was within reach of one of the community water tanks or if we would have to shuttle water in a truck,
You and your kids would be able to have a close look at how we operate and as well as get a close look at our trucks and equipment,
It’s a fun way to help out your Fire Department.
We’d be at your place between 7:45PM and 9PM and would probably spray water somewhere in your yard where it wouldn’t harm anything. We wouldn’t need access to the inside of your house.
If this sounds like something that you’d like to participate in, please send an email or call the Fire Hall at 250.335.2611 and leave a message.
A resident recently found one of these Military Location Markers or MLM on Big Trib and called us to let us know where it was. When we went to pick it up we noticed that it was completely intact and fully charged. Normally they are found having been discharged.
Fully charged or discharged, these devices can be extremely dangerous. They contain a phosphorous powder which is highly flammable and burns extremely hot. Occasionally a small amount of powder is left in them and would cause a serious injury if spilled on skin.
The folks at CFB Comox take a washed up MLM very seriously and usually show up within 24 hours to pick it up. If you find one of these devices please do one of the following:
call the Duty Desk at CFB Comox at 1-866-488-0889 and tell them the location of the MLM
call 911, ask for fire, and request a “duty officer” call to retrieve an MLM.
Congratulations to the most recent HIFR members to complete the Hazmat Operations Course and successfully challenge the exam. Albini Lapierre, Faroe DesRoches, John Heinegg, Bailey Gordon, and Scott Towson attended the three-day course which was hosted by the Fanny Bay Fire Department.
Thank you for giving up your weekend to strengthen our team.
We had a four and a half hour call today that ended with our patient getting flown to hospital. Everyone from the air ambulance crew to our fantastic doctor, to the patient’s family did a fabulous job to stabilize and transport the patient to hospital. Special thanks have to go out to Dave Colley who brought his backhoe over on quick notice to clear the airstrip driveway and landing pad.