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Pemberton Fire Rescue had quiet year in 2020

COVID-19 changed the way firefighters operated in 2020
House fire - pemberton
A Pemberton Fire Rescue member responds to a house fire that broke out in a townhouse complex in August 2020.

Pemberton Fire Rescue attended 348 incidents in 2020, down significantly from the 459 they attended in 2019.

The drop in numbers was “due to COVID-19,” according to the Pemberton Fire Rescue annual report, which was presented to the Village of Pemberton regular council meeting July 13.

Of the 348 calls, 111 were for medical aid—that’s 32 per cent of all calls. This was also down from 2019 where 51 per cent of calls were for medical aid.

Fires represented 26 per cent of the department’s call volume with 91 total calls.

Members of Fire and Rescue spent a total of 355.5 hours responding to calls, which was also down from 2019 where they spent 452.25 hours on incidents.

The COVID-19 pandemic also affected Pemberton Fire and Rescue in a few other ways—it meant that members could not engage with the community as much they normally would and it threw some curveballs into the training schedule.

“Pemberton Fire Rescue assisted with the Halloween fireworks and conducted a Santa’s tour around town at Christmas,” said the report. “[But] the pandemic drastically reduced our involvement with the community.”

Previous to March 11, 2020, members participated in weekly training sessions, but those were put on hold for two months due to the pandemic. Training resumed in June with a modified program consisting of four training sessions a week with just four to six members attending each, in order to adhere to the COVID-19 safety regulations.

Despite the drastic drop in calls in 2020, and the two-month gap in the training schedule, the training hours went up from 195.5 hours in 2019, to 296 hours in 2020.

This was due to “an increase in time dedicated to the training program by the chief and deputy chief, as it was vital that the training requirements set forth by the province continued to be met while at the same time ensuring adherence to the public health orders,” according to the report.

Said fire chief Robert Grossman: “So, these additional volunteer hours are put in while maintaining full-time jobs, as well as family and other commitments.

“The dedication and commitment each member of Pemberton Fire Rescue gives to the department as well as the community is very much appreciated, and residents should be proud of the commitment these members provide.”

Grossman also took time to highlight some of the department’s 2020 award winners including Paul Quinlan who was honoured as “Firefighter of the Year” and “Outstanding Firefighter of the Year for Most Attendance to Incidents and Training;” Lloyd Niceforo who won “most Improved Firefighter of the Year;” and Mike Zgud who won “Rookie of the Year.”

Over the past two years, Pemberton Fire Rescue also said goodbye to two long-time members—Jason Pospisil retired in 2019 after 17 years of service, and Kyle Bubbs retired in 2020 after 18 years of service.

Over that same time span, the department had one major promotion with Cameron Adams being promoted to full-time deputy chief training and fire prevention.