Blog - The Raven Speaks

Expanding One Community’s Fire Rescue Response

As told by Raven Rescue Swiftwater and Boat Instructor, Thyren Garde-Jacobs.

North Cowichan Fire Department is the largest POC (Paid-On-Call) department in all of BC, and one of the largest in the country. North Cowichan covers about 200 square kilometers, and has a population close to 40,000 people. Even with this huge area and population, there are no full time paid positions at the fire department.

Because of this circumstance, North Cowichan is presented with their own unique set of challenges for providing fire and rescue services. The municipality has four fire stations spread over their area to ensure a quick response at any moment; Chemainus Hall, Crofton Hall, Maple Bay Hall and South End Hall. I joined Crofton Hall in 2011 and have since moved to the South End Hall as of 2013. The South End hall is the busiest hall of the four, with 289 callouts in 2016, 18 of which were structure fires.  2017 has been just as busy so far.

The South End Hall in particular offers all normal fire related services as well as swiftwater rescue, low-slope rope rescue, some confined space rescue, boat and static water rescue, and motor vehicle extrication. Being a completely POC hall with a very large call volume (we respond to a call nearly every day), we have a hard time keeping up with all of the required training and certifications. As a swiftwater, motorized rescue boat instructor and rope rescue technician with Raven Rescue, I have been able to begin providing an avenue for our department to meet all of the necessary training requirements for all of our responders. 

Rope rescue can be daunting to smaller fire departments, and it can require a large monetary investment to get the proper equipment. By working with Matt in the Raven Rescue Equipment Warehouse, we have been able to start replacing old, out-of-date ropes and have started bringing in simpler, more efficient devices like the MPD from CMC Rescue. We have gone away from complicated systems, and have moved to a simple mirrored system where we use the same gear and same approach to everything.  

Recently, we were able to host the Vancouver Island Fire Fighters Association Spring Training event at our municipal training grounds. About 60 firefighters from around Vancouver Island were taken through an introduction to rope rescue. Departments saw how rope rescue can be used for safer access to many scenes, and how getting some basic training can help not only on the fire ground, but also in tricky rescue situations.

After improving our rope program, we were tasked to an event where two hikers had fallen down a river bank. After falling about 30 feet, one of the hikers ended up walking out injured to get help.  At 5:00am, the tones sounded signalling for us to respond. As we arrived on scene and did a quick scene size-up, we set to work with our new skills and equipment.  Even at 5:00am, with sleep in our eyes, I watched as our simple systems and training were put to good use. Our responders were able to set up a safe and effective system, go over the bank, and package and extract the injured hiker, all in an efficient and timely manner. 

Our boat and swiftwater training is coming along as well, and this year we are scheduled to take the SRT 1 course for the majority of our members. We're looking forward to this fast-paced and exciting course. I'm hoping this course will help to solidify some of those core rope rescue basics for all the participants, while introducing some of our newer members to a fun, yet challenging, swiftwater environment. This course will be put to good use come the spring and fall floods we always experience, and will enable us to better aid our local Search and Rescue Group.

I am so proud to be a part of the Raven Rescue team, and have really appreciated their support in training and equipping my home town department.  Thanks again to the whole team!


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James Doughtry, Pararescue Specialist
103rd Rescue Squadron, US Air Force

We really couldn't have asked for more in a two week period - the amount and quality of training we received was like nothing I've seen before. I have been going on training trips usually twice a month for the last 4 years and this was by far the best I have been to.


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