The Valley’s rural fire departments look after hundreds of millions of dollars worth of homes, businesses and properties, said Jim Miller, Fire Chief of the Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue Service, adding that their service is invaluable.

“We may not be able to stop every house fire, but we can certainly stop it from going to the next (house) or getting bigger or taking a whole block,” he said.

Mr. Miller is currently recruiting and training paid on-call volunteers for the fire departments in Edgewater, Fairmont, Windermere and Panorama.

Edgewater’s fire department dropped to half its size in June after two volunteers were fired and several of their peers walked out with them.

Before the kerfuffle, the fire department had 15 active members, but Mr. Miller said recruitment has been going strong and that the number of volunteers is now higher than before the crisis.

“They’re moving along and we’re in the midst of recruiting some people and in the midst of a lot of training right now,” he said. “We’re just going in the right direction for sure.”

Mr. Miller said Edgewater isn’t the only department with new volunteers.

“We’re recruiting. We’re in training in all the departments. It’s exactly the same thing as we’re doing in Edgewater,” he said. “We’re always needing more people all the time.”

At a recent all-candidates forum in Edgewater, Area G director Gerry Wilkie said: “Personally I’m going to try to do all I can to make the community understand what an important role the volunteer fire department plays in protecting our community… It’s a real sacrifice for people to put all that time and effort into protecting the community, and there should be much much more recognition of that.”

Fire prevention tips

With Fire Prevention Week running from October 7th to 13th, Mr. Miller took the opportunity to share fire safety tips with residents.

He implores parents to make sure their children know to get out and stay out when they hear a smoke alarm.

“It’s really important… that they understand this at a young age because they could be stuck by themselves,” he said.

Children need to know at least two escape routes out of the home and to have an agreed-upon meeting place where they will gather with the rest of the family.

“It’s kind of a norm for children to go hide if they’re a little scared, to go under the bed or into the closet… or to run back into the house for their cat or their dog or their little teddy bear if Mom and Dad are not there to stop them.”

Mr. Miller also advises residents to take care of their clothes dryers and chimneys.

“Lint in dryers and lint in your dryer hose builds up such a lot of heat if it’s never cleaned out that it will cause a fire,” he said.

Renters and homeowners should clean their lint traps regularly and remove their dryer’s hose periodically to vacuum lint out of it.

“A good majority of house fires will be started by a dryer,” he said. “We’ve had a few of them ourselves in the Windermere area over the years… That heat just builds and builds and builds until it hits the combustion point.”

He also encourages those with chimneys to keep them clean and to have them inspected.