News Local

Busy year for fire department

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Pembroke Fire Chief Dan Herback delivers the fire department's 2016 annual report.

Pembroke Fire Chief Dan Herback delivers the fire department's 2016 annual report.

The year 2016 was both busy and eventful for the Pembroke Fire Department.

In his annual report to city council, presented to the finance and administration committee, Fire Chief Dan Herback said last year was another busy and productive year, with almost 400 incident responses and more than 1,000 inspections and consultations completed. 
He said the most exciting development for the fire department is getting the green light on a new fire station to replace their current one on Victoria Street, which is aging and outdated. 
“A big part of 2016 was taken up with planning and designing a building which will provide for the needs of the department and the city for years to come,” Herback said. “A major decision in this process was to choose the new location and we are confident that through our diligence we will be relocating to the best possible location for not only our response but also our needs.”
The new fire hall is being located at the corner of International Drive and Upper Valley Drive, close to Boundary Road and the Pembroke and Area Community Centre.
Herback said unlike 2015, there were no major turnovers in staff through retirements, and with council agreeing to top up the department's equipment reserves, the service will be ready to upgrade and replace equipment as is needed. 
“Our service is a strong, vital and pro-active service, and I am confident that this report outlines this for all to see,” he said. 
The chief added the membership of the professional firefighters association have been really active in the community, donating countless hours of their own free time to raise funds, offer donations and support just about every organization and local charitable cause that exists.
The fire department's annual report is a state-of-the-union snapshot of what city firefighters have been up to over the past year.
Some highlights:
- The Pembroke Fire Department responded to a total of 374 emergency incidents in 2016, with the average response time withing city boundaries being four minutes, 17 seconds. Herback said this represents the exact time from the receipt of the actual call from 911 dispatch to the on-scene arrival time by the fire department.
“This is a very, very good average,” he said, where the standard response time is around four minutes.
Herback said the fire department’s structure as a composite department – a mix of full time and volunteer firefighters - provides for a very efficient response to fire incidents.
The fire department also responded to 12 incidents outside of city boundaries for vehicle extrication, vehicle collisions, water rescue and Mutual Aid. The average response time for incidents outside of the city was 10 minutes, 18 seconds.
- there was a total of $3,268,050 in fire losses in 2016, while the quick response and skills of the firefighters meant the department managed to save $7,267,800 worth of property. Through all of the fires responded to in 2016, including mutual aid response,  there were no major injuries to civilians.   
Of the structure fires, the two costliest were the ones at the Lake Street student residence, which was under construction at the time, and Cathedral Catholic School.
On Nov. 10, the department responded to a dispatch about a fire at 370 Lake Street. Upon seeing the flames the call was upgraded to a Code 4, which calls out all available firefighters to the scene. The fire was controlled and extinguished with major damage to the west wing of the building. 
The cause of the fire was investigated by the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office, and remains undetermined. The fire loss is estimated to be at $2,100,000.
A smoky blaze on Oct. 19 caused $410,000 worth of damage to Cathedral School on Isabella Street. Smoke was seen coming from the roof area and was entering building through the HVAC system.  Firefighters accessed roof and located the roof top heating unit which was on fire.
The fire was contained to the unit and the roof but the building suffered major smoke damage throughout and was closed for months for restoration. 
- The Pembroke Fire Department responded to 37 motor vehicle collisions in 2016, eight of them requiring extrication.
The most notable of them was a vehicle extrication on April 18 at 555 Paul Martin Drive. Upon arrival the firefighters found a vehicle overturned and balancing on its hood. 
“The driver had freed himself from the seat but a five-year-old child remained trapped in the vehicle,” Herback said. “Firefighters performed extrication evolutions and freed the child from the car seat and the vehicle. Following the rescue, it was ascertained that the child was the subject of an Amber Alert.”
The child had allegedly been taken by her father from her mother's house in Aurora earlier that day, and was subject of a high speed pursuit. Police had broken it off when the vehicle failed to navigate the curve and flipped over.
- The Pembroke Fire Department responded to five water rescues in 2016, using its rescue boat.
On May 4th a family out in two kayaks and aluminum boat on the Muskrat River had one kayak overturn spilling occupant into river. The P.F.D. responded and retrieved the victim. 
On June 10th a boat caught fire east of the where the Muskrat River empties into the Ottawa River.  The driver of the burning boat was transferred into the fire rescue boat and brought to shore and into awaiting ambulance.  Crews returned to the burning vessel, kept curious onlookers at a distance and ensured the burning vessel did not pose a danger.  
The Canadian Coast Guard was contacted for retrieval of the sunken boat.  
In July an unconscious victim was removed from the Ottawa River outside of Riverside Park into the Fire Rescue Boat. 
On Aug. 4, the P.F.D. Fire Rescue Boat responded with EMS from Petawawa Fire to Gibraltar Island to treat a young victim with burn injuries.
On Sept. 11, a boat overturned outside of the Pembroke Marina having the driver straddling the vessel. The victim was rescued and put into the PFD boat and returned to the Marina. Crews assisted with recovering the boat. 


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