Unusually busy weekend for Harrison Fire Department

Six call-outs for typically quiet time of the year in the village

The Harrison Hot Springs fire department had an unusually busy weekend in the village, with six call-outs between Friday and Sunday, Feb. 22.

The first call came in Friday night, with commercial alarms at the Harrison Hot Springs hotel. Then a few hours later, they attended a single vehicle accident on Hot Springs road. On Saturday morning, crews were called for alarms at the Harrison Beach hotel.

“Somebody had pulled an alarm station,” explains Harrison Hot Springs Fire Chief Don Labossiere. “We had to do a systemic search of the building to make sure everything was clear.”

Around 1:15 a.m. Sunday morning, there were multiple 9-1-1 calls about a structure fire at Yukia Sushi.

“We arrived and there was an extensive amount of smoke coming out of the kitchen area,” says Labossiere. “It was just a small kitchen fire but we contained it.”

They also evacuated guests in the adjoining motel as there are rooms above the restaurant.

Sunday morning, there was a call about a possible boat on fire at the Breakwater Marina but when Labassoiere arrived, there was no sign of a fire. The last call-out of the weekend happened later Sunday afternoon.

“There was a noticeable odor of natural gas wafting through the air,” down by the waterfront area. They turned the gas meters off and called Fortis to determine where the smell was coming from. They couldn’t narrow it down and the smell eventually dissipated.

The weekend’s call-outs come on the heels of a report Labossiere presented to the Village Council at their last regular Council meeting Feb. 16. In the meeting, he presented the 2014 annual report for the volunteer department, including statistics on the past year, an update on department equipment and the roster of volunteers.

“Our services have broadened over the years and our ability to respond to a variety of incidents speaks volumes of our desire to serve,” Labossiere wrote in a letter of introduction to Council. “We take pride in our service delivery and we use our training and skills to assist our residents, business partners and visitors.”

The department responded to 70 emergencies in 2014, similar to the 2013 and 2012 numbers of 70 and 69. There were 11 fires, 20 burning complaints, eight motor vehicle accidents and two hazardous material responses, among others. Of the call-outs, 48 responded with a single engine, 14 with multiple engines and eight with utility responses.

Coun. Sonja Reyerse questioned the increase in motor vehicle accident responses as they more than doubled from 2013’s three accidents.

“The volume of people coming into town,” increases the likelihood of more crashes, Labossiere remarked.

On the subject of fire prevention, the department did 158 fire inspections for business licenses, 98 regular inspections and several re-inspections.

“We’re doing the education out there and ensuring we’re not having more possible fire losses,” Labossiere said.

He was asked about compliance by business owners when it comes to fire inspections and requirements. The fire chief responded that the majority are compliant, but there were a couple cases in 2014 that proved “quite challenging,” which led to Labossiere and CAO Ian Crane working together to resolve the issues.

Labossiere told Council he would like to keep the number of volunteers to at least 15, but would prefer more. Right now, they have 19 firefighters on the roster and three more in training right now.

”We’d like to get somewhere between 20 and 23,” he told Council. “But over the last few years, we’ve never been able to get past 20 [members].”

The report included an update on the department’s equipment, with Labossiere noting the priority for the department is to replace Engine 1-2, a pumper truck by 2017. The village sets aside reserve funding to cover capital expenses such as new trucks.

Labossiere stated the department had a “moderately busy training year,” with rail safety, First aid, Wildfire in Urban interface training and vehicle-related courses. There was also vocational and fire officer training.

Labossiere praised the efforts of the village’s firefighters in taking on so much training, given that this is a volunteer department where people have full-time occupations outside of the department.

Mayor Leo Facio thanked Labossiere and the department volunteers for their service.

“It’s very rewarding for Council, especially our two new ones, to see how our volunteer Fire Department operates in our community,” said Facio. “All firefighters should be commended. They’re all worthy of our applause.”