When a hunter found a man trapped in his pickup truck just south of Sayward Tuesday, the nearest fire department had no one available to respond.
CHEK News has learned the 911 dispatch centre paged out the Sayward Fire Department five times but got no response. That’s when Campbell River firefighters decided they better go, a distance of 63 kilometres to the scene.
“After some time, the dispatch centre determined they couldn’t get a response out of the Sayward department so we were involved into the call,” said Campbell River Deputy Chief Kelly Bellefleur.
The victim who spent five days in the truck was rescued and is now recovering in a Victoria hospital but the question remains where were the Sayward firefighters?
“I mean obviously it raises a bit of a red flag with me but again it’s hard for me to comment on it because it’s something we need to look into,” said Sayward CAO Paul Carver. “I want to talk to the fire chief a little more about it and of course, the fire chief will have to talk to his rank and file as well to get more information on it.”
The reality is that Sayward with a population of about 350 people in the village and 1000 across the valley is no different than many other small, isolated community on the island. It struggles to maintain a list of volunteer firefighters and even the chief works out of town.
“It’s always a tough thing because in the end you’re dealing with a volunteer fire department and the members on the fire department obviously have other jobs and a lot depends on the time of day when a call comes in so there are different factors that do come into play,” said Carver.
According to Carver, the Sayward Fire Department currently has about 12 volunteers.
Unlike many communities that have “mutual aid” agreements with nearby fire departments, Sayward is about 75 kilometres from Campbell River.
“It’s an ongoing problem with recruitment so your rank and file go up and down for a number of reasons. It could be economic reasons,” he added.
Carver says a review of the lack of response will be conducted and a recruiting drive will begin for new volunteers.
He says having a fire department respond over 60 kilometres to an emergency in the Sayward area is not an ideal situation.