By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

The Invermere fire department’s annual report shows that it, like literally every other agency in the district of Invermere, underwent significant changes last year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had to adapt in many ways to be able to keep the services we provide to the community and surrounding area operating without interruption. The way we responded and what vehicles we used along with what we could wear and not wear made it challenging. Things were changing monthly, weekly, daily and sometimes hourly,” wrote Invermere fire chief Jason Roe in the report.

Response logistics for the fire department had to change to meet new pandemic regulations, and the fire department adapted by taking more apparatus with less people in each vehicle.

Training in 2020 became challenging: “Training nights and courses were constantly changing week by week, as the provincial regulations changed. We would adapt by switching to online training through Zoom. When allowed, we jumped back into face to face training with modified practice plans to maintain physical distancing,” wrote Roe, adding that the fire crew did a great job looking after each other in a difficult time. 

“They once again stepped up and participated in training and responded to calls knowing they could be at risk due to COVID-19,” he wrote.

The fire department’s training was helped considerably by a local community member, who volunteered to let the crew use an old house slated for demolition to practice some structure fire scenarios. 

Before the pandemic hit, the year had started out as a busy one for the fire department, with three structure fires the first month and a half of 2020, including a house fire in Wilmer, a house fire in Athlamer, and the massive blaze that reduced the old planner mill in Canal Flats to ashes. Other significant calls in 2020 included a fire at a Toby Hill house, a Toby Hill bush fire and a roadside accident involving one person and four horses trapped. In all, the Invermere fire department responded to 100 incidents in 2020, including almost 30 alarms, more than 25 fires, 35 motor vehicle incidents and rescues, five public education incidents and a couple of hazardous materials incidents.

Public education and engagement changed drastically in 2020: “School visits during fire prevention week had to be cancelled this year along with the traditional parades, etc. Our crew stepped up and helped spread some community cheer by cruising around on Canada Day, and the week before Christmas. 

Earlier in the year, we also made some special birthday runs to celebrate with them,” wrote Roe.

Training course undertaken by Invermere fire department members in 2020 included courses in confined space rescue, team leader courses, the S-185 (fire entrapment avoidance course), hazmat operations, first aid and transport endorsement courses.

Also in 2020, the Invermere Fire Association purchased a sprinkler protection trailer through funds raised at the 2019 Fireman’s Ball. “This will be a project we continue to build over the next few years to have a better chance at protecting our community in the event of an interface fire,” wrote Roe.