Protection file

Yukon Fire Department review calls for ‘fire protection in a box’ for remote communities

Small, remote Yukon communities, like Keno City, could benefit from a “neighbor-to-neighbor” firefighting plan, according to a recent review of the Yukon Fire Department.

A 152-page report was produced by consulting firm Response Specialties, under contract with the Government of Yukon’s Department of Community Services. The company and the territory held a technical briefing on the report on Thursday.

The report says some of Yukon’s fire service laws are outdated and not consistent with current practice. Occupational health and safety regulations as well as the fire prevention law need to be reviewed and updated, he said.

The new report comes after a group representing residents of Keno City, Yukon, called for an independent public inquiry into the state of fire protection last December, after a fire destroyed the hotel well -loved by the community.

Keno City is home to a few dozen residents and the Keno City Hotel was an iconic landmark of the booming former mining town.

At the time, an open letter was sent to the Prime Minister, ministers and the fire marshal, by the Keno City group of residents. He said a fire engine was removed from the community without notice in April 2019. The community is described in the letter as a historic old wooden community with no volunteer fire department, and he said residents should contacting a force of volunteers from Mayo, Yukon, about an hour away, to respond to the hotel fire.

The letter also stated that a large reserve water tank in Keno had been removed earlier by the territory’s Department of Community Services. On the night of the fire, the building housing the tanker and the personal protective equipment of the firefighters was locked. The keys had previously been confiscated from residents, according to the letter.

House fire in Keno City in February. (Amber Smith)

“Fire protection in a box”

Among the 104 recommendations in the new report, one of the top priorities according to Don Jolley, director and founder of Response Specialties Consulting, is to implement a concept of “fire protection in a box”. He said this could help the territory’s smaller communities have a “core capacity” to limit the spread of fire in the event of a structural fire.

The idea, according to the report, is to “provide small remote communities with the internal tools to provide neighbor-to-neighbor fire assistance when there is no capacity to staff a volunteer fire service. “.

The report states that it is not intended to be a formal organization, nor should it be seen as a replacement for a fire department if it can be sustained.

Jolley said the concept is to deliver a set of equipment, such as hoses, portable pumps, shovels, axes, nozzles and other items, either in a container or on the back of it. a pickup truck, for example, a government surplus truck. .

The community would then own it and its maintenance would be the responsibility of the community. It is not up to the Yukon government to repair or replace items, he said.

“There would be no formal training program. Nothing would be associated with it,” he said.

“It’s not to replace the 911 phone call or for help from a nearby community. It’s just to offer them something better than running out there with their little fire extinguisher. kitchen or their, you know, three-quarter. inch from a garden hose. “

Roger Chabot’s home in Keno, Yukon. “I have something to protect,” he told CBC News after a final report on the Yukon fire service. (Submitted by Roger Chabot)

The report states that this approach, already used in Alaska and “similarly” by some First Nations in British Columbia, “is ideally suited for deployment in communities such as Keno with small population bases that cannot. support a legitimate fire department ”.

“I think this could be very effective in the Yukon in small communities like Keno and others who are just not able to maintain a fire department simply due to the lack of people to support the volunteers needed,” he said. said Jolley.

While Jolley said there was still a lot of logistical work to be done on how this would be enforced, he said it was “an important step forward” for communities in need of protection from fires.

Roger Chabot, a Keno resident, says he likes the idea of ​​having the tools to deal with the fires, especially since residents no longer have access to the fire truck that was once in place. His own house is one of the many wooden structures in the city.

“I have something to protect,” he said. “There are a bunch of really good houses around here.

Damien Burns, Assistant Deputy Minister of Yukon Protective Services, right, in a file photo. He says the review provides a roadmap for service improvement. (Government of Yukon)

It also makes sense for locals to be able to put out the fires on their own, he said, as the nearest community, Mayo, is about 60 kilometers along “the worst road,” including some areas, he said, have to drive about 10 kilometers. per hour.

A roadmap

Damien Burns, assistant deputy minister of protective services for the Yukon, says the report provides a roadmap for improving services.

“It’s very exciting to me that there can be this possibility of a [fire protection] solution that a community can constitute with its own local autonomy ”, he declared.

Burns also says his department will immediately undertake some of the short-term recommendations, such as recruiting volunteer firefighters in communities that have fire departments.

“If we are able to engage in communities and find the energy we need to provide these volunteer firefighting services, the Yukon will undoubtedly be a national leader in environmental fire protection. rural, ”he said.

The review also indicates that the Yukon needs to improve and increase First Nations engagement and fire protection.