St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
It was a dark and stormy night.
It isn't quite as dark this morning, but it still is stormy. The rain started yesterday about mid-day and the wind picked up in the evening. By the time Wendy got home from work, the rain was coming down in buckets and the wind was starting to howl. Several times in the evening, the power went off for a few seconds. (No matter how often you save your work on the computer, it isn't often enough!)
A few minutes after one of the momentary blackouts, my fire department pager went off - a report of a tree down on a power line and on fire. My first callout! There's not much the fire department can do with a live wire until BC Hydro gets the power turned off, but you still have to respond in case other structures or trees need protection from fire.
As I drove to the firehall, twigs were raining down from the trees. There were four of us who responded to the firehall, and one, fortunately an officer with a radio, who was on the far side of the downed tree and remained there to handle traffic on that side. The drive to the scene in the fire truck was wild, with the wind howling in off the Lambert Channel and sheets of water with raindrops the size of golf balls slamming into the windshield.
The tree was down on the section of road between the last intersection and the Hornby Island ferry. As a result, it was blocking Hornby residents from getting home on the one night of the week that their ferry runs after 6:00 pm and they can stay late in town. It had cleanly snapped all three wires of the high-tension power line, the ends of which were draped on the ground at the respective poles. While the officers cautiously inspected the scene on foot, we junior members had the job of telling the Hornby-bound traffic that the road was closed. Eventually, they determined that the downed tree wasn't low enough to impede traffic and that it wasn't likely to fall further. More importantly, they discovered that the power pole on the "up-island" side just happened to be one with circuit breakers on it. With a searchlight, we were able to see that all three breakers were tripped open, so the lines on the ground were safe. Eventually, realizing that BC Hydro wasn't going to come out at night and that keeping personnel out all night to direct traffic wasn't a good idea, the deputy chief decided to close one lane with traffic cones and call it a night.
So, that was my first fire callout: no fire, not even any sparks! Just lots of water and wind.
My apologies for not getting a Denman Diary out last week. I was in Alberta visiting my father for his 83rd birthday. It was a good visit, though with far too much time spent waiting in the Calgary airport. On return here, it was storming again, so much so that they parked the aircraft backwards. There are no covered walkways at Comox - you walk down the stairs and across the tarmac - and they normally park the aircraft with the nose facing the terminal building. However, since that would have had the wind blowing straight in the open doors of the aircraft, they turned around and parked tail to the building.
This weekend, I'm busy working on maps for the final report of the land-use committee I'm on. We report to the Residents' Association on Monday, and we don't want to blow the deadline. However, there's still a bit of work to do. Some day I'll have to tell you about the dynamics of volunteer committees!
Spring is here!! Well, perhaps not quite, but our daffodils are up! I noticed some daffodil shoots out on the main road by our mailbox yesterday, so today I grabbed the camera to go and take pictures of them. On my way out the driveway, I stopped to look for our own daffodils, and sure enough, there they were.
The weather pattern has changed, too. Instead of the pattern of the last couple of months of two days of storm followed by a couple of days of calm, cloudy weather, we have had several days in a row of nice weather with clear blue skies. It's not particularly warm - only 7 degrees today - and it gets frosty at night with the clear skies, but is is a pleasant change. The sun isn't high enough yet to clear the trees for more than half an hour or so. That is enough to melt the frost on the part of the yard that gets the sun, but the frost on the remainder stays all day.
I have been taking advantage of the nice weather to get a good starting on clearing out the large stand of alders that is gradually invading our clearing. The largest of them were only nine years old (a science nerd can't help counting tree rings), but over twenty feet tall. They were starting to shade the garden and they blocked the view from the house into the forest. Eventually, they would have spread to fill in the entire clearing.
I'll cut the larger trunks into logs for the fire. The smaller ones will get woven into a rustic fence for our driveway. It feels very rural to get out the chainsaw and start cutting trees. The previous owner of the house had, for reasons known only to herself, tied adjacent alder saplings together in weird arches. It was a bit bizarre to cut through the trunk of a tree only to have it "fall" upwards as its neighbour, to which it was tied, sprung upwards.
All the rain that we have had in the last couple of months has meant lots of snow for the mountains across the sound on Vancouver Island. With these sunny mornings, the snow cover has been lit up pink at sunrise. One of these days, I'll have to take the camera with me on the way to work to get a photo of them. What a commute: sitting on the ferry watching the sun rise on the snowy mountains!
This week, it seems like I've been doing nothing but putting out fires. Sunday night, there was a chimney fire. As one of the first on the scene, I was tasked, along with another firefighter, to put on breathing apparatus and go up on the roof with the hose. We got the fire out quite quickly, but they discovered some charred, smoldering wood around the stovepipe. So, we did save the house from burning down.
Then, this morning at 3:something AM, the pager went off for a structure fire with an occupant inside. Boy, that sure gets you awake pretty quickly! Luckily, the neighbours had got the person out by the time we arrived, but there followed six hours of firefighting to save the building. We ended up having to take the metal roof off screw by screw to get at the fire. We did it, though, and although it will need a new roof and some other repairs, we saved the house.
One reason for the sudden rash of fires this week is our cold snap. People overstoke their stoves, which can cause chimney fires or structure fires. Okay, okay, my father in Edmonton and my brother in Saskatoon won't be impressed (they've had -40 windchills in the last couple of days), but it's the coldest it's been here this winter. In fact, the coldest temperature (-4°C) occurred right as we were fighting the fire.
My temperature sensor is a little too close to the front door, and records a blip of warmth when the door is opened. You can see the blip from my going out the door at 3:25 this morning. The coldest temperature was -4.5°C at 8:00.
In other news ... um, my brain isn't firing on all cylinders today ... not much. The weather, while cold, has been sunny. I've been able to some outdoor chores, like continuing to clear the alders from our back yard.
The land use committee I was on presented its final report to the Residents' Association this week and was disbanded. The report was well-received, which was satisfying, since I did much of the editing on it.
Jumping headfirst out of second-floor windows. Crashing through gyproc walls. Tossing a 300-lb guy over a four-foot window ledge. That's what I was up to on my fire department training this week. It was a course on self-rescue techniques put on by the Comox Fire Department. We didn't quite get around to leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but we did everything else!
Jumping headfirst out a window requires that someone has set up a ladder outside at the window ledge. You dive onto the ladder and go down it headfirst using your hands. Once you are out of danger, you turn around on the ladder and come down the rest of the way the normal way.
Crashing through walls is another technique for getting out of a really bad room quickly. You kick through the drywall and squeeze between the studs to get into the next room. Yes, even the 300-lb guy was able to get through!
Tossing someone out a window is a technique for rescuing another firefighter. You have three guys outside on ladders pulling and one guy inside lifting. They deliberately pick the largest "victim" and the smallest lifter (me) just to show that it can be done.
The course ended with a rescue scenario where we had to put many of the techniques together to drag a disabled firefighter out of a smoke-filled building. It was an excellent course, and I learned a lot of useful information and techniques. After all what could be more useful than saving one's own rear end?
We have a new neighbour. A bald eagle has been hanging around our place a lot in recent days. I was busy chopping wood when I heart this really weird bird call. It was a while before Wendy was able to spot the source: an eagle sitting on top of one of the trees. Eagles are quite common here, but it is still an impressive sight.
We got a truckload of gravel delivered this week, so I could finally finish our front walkway. At about 300 lbs per wheelbarrow load, I figure I've moved about two tons of it so far. Whew!! However, the results are worth it.
In just a few minutes, a load of cedar siding should arrive, and I will be able to finish our woodshed. It is not too soon to start storing next winter's supply of firewood. Having it under cover will ensure that it is good and dry by winter.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013