The strong showing of West Shore and Greater Victoria firefighters in Enderby, B.C., last week reflects how the death of a volunteer colleague reverberates across the fire services.
Volunteer and professional firefighters step up to face danger every day, but few dwell on inherent day-to-day risks of the job — explosions, fire and toxic smoke come with the territory.
The death of 25-year-old Dan Botkin is a sad and grim reminder that despite training, planning and having safety gear, fire scenes remain deadly even when the fire seems under control.
In the past few years it’s easy to think of a few incidents on the West Shore that could have flared into more of a disaster than they already were — the fuel truck spill on the Malahat, a propane explosion in View Royal, a rural house aflame that contained gun ammo, broken natural gas mains and an ammonia leak, not to mention scores of house fires each containing explosive household materials.
In all these incidents, firefighters took necessary safety measures and walked away alive. But when attacking a fire, there are always elements of risk for volunteer crews.
Buildings can collapse, fuel tanks can rupture and if crews aren’t careful, brush fires can ignite into wildfires.
But thanks to training and safety protocols, firefighters and other first responder deaths are relatively rare. According to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Association, 134 firefighters from B.C. have died on the job between 1893 and 2010 – 10 fallen are listed from Victoria and one from Langford from1959.
The death in Enderby will give West Shore firefighters plenty to reflect on and a good reason to review their own safety regulations.
As Metchosin fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop remarked on the Enderby tragedy: “It could happen to any of us. We never know what we are getting into when we respond to call.”