Langley Township firefighters had to delay entering a burning house in 2011 because of short-staffing, a report to council has disclosed.
The March 20 memo from fire chief Stephen Gamble, written in response to council questions, shows for 42 per cent of the time over three years (2011, 2012 and 2013) the first fire crews on the scene of residential structure fires in the Township have been three-person crews, below the minimum standard of four.
Most of them, however, were fires which did not require an “offensive attack” where firefighters may enter a burning building.
Only once over the three years were firefighters forced to delay entry until more crews could arrive to help, and then the wait time was “3.02” minutes, the Gamble report states.
The incident took place in September of 2011 when fire caused extensive damage to a heritage house on Old Yale Road near the 216 Street roundabout in historic Murrayville.
The blaze, reported in The Times, was considered suspicious.
It drew half a dozen emergency vehicles including pumper trucks, a fire department command vehicle and an ambulance.
No one was injured and the Gamble report notes there were “no occupants found” inside the burning building.
The heritage house has since been restored.
WorkSafe B.C. regulations require a minimum of four firefighters before going into a burning structure, two to enter the building and two to remain outside.
A previous Jan. 15 report to Township council from Gamble estimated every one of the four halls with full-time firefighters in Langley will fail to meet the minimum four-person crew requirement at different times this year, but the Aldergrove hall at 26316 30A Avenue will be under the four-person crew most often.
From Aug. 4 until Aug. 19, every one of the four shifts in Aldergrove will be operating with three-person crews.
In July, one of the four shifts will run with three people for the entire month.
A follow-up report to council said that was because two of the firefighters in the Aldergrove hall are off on long-term disability, and there aren’t enough available firefighters to cover for them all the time.
The department has an average of 18 firefighters working per shift when the generally accepted minimum is 20.
As a result, about 20 per cent of the time, Langley fire trucks are operating with three- instead of four-person crews, the fire department estimates.
The latest Gamble report says the Township should work t.oward having four-person crews at all full-time fire halls in the Township for “overall efficiency, firefighter safety, as well as meeting industry standards …”