Vacant buildings causing headaches for Carbonear firefighters
By Mark Squibb/April 14, 2022
Fire Chief Adam Earle says in 2021 the Carbonear Volunteer Fire Department received a total of 80 fire calls. Thirty-seven of those were false alarms.
Earle gave a brief fire hall update to Carbonear council near the end of February. Councillor Danielle Doyle asked if some of the false alarms were from the same buildings.
“I know we have a number of vacant buildings in the community, and that there’s been some concerns about false alarms in the early hours of the night,” said Doyle.
Earle said he was aware of those concerns and confirmed they were valid.
“There are two buildings that are rather torturous,” said Earle. “One is the Interfaith Home and one is the Harbour Lodge. Public Works and Transportation are the ones who are looking after these buildings now, but everything is still hooked up on the switchboard at the hospital.”
Earle suggested that the heat cutting in may cause the alarms to go off.
“Last time we went to the Interfaith, we were there for an hour, and we couldn’t get the alarm silenced, we had to call the electrician,” said Earle.
Doyle said the town would bring the issue to local MHA Steve Crocker, as she felt it was an important issue.
“You guys are all volunteers,” said Doyle. “If you guys are getting called out, leaving your job and leaving your homes all hours of the day and night, to deal with two abandoned buildings, then it’s certainly an important discussion and a problem to solve.”
Earle agreed, noting firefighters were once called to both buildings in the same night.
Councillor Geoff Seymour said that in his former position at Eastern Health, he had some insight into the situation.
“Back two years ago, Transportation took over the two buildings, and before that, I used to work a night shift, and we were in operation taking care of the fire alarms when they went off,” said Seymour. “Now that the situation is passed off to the Department of Transportation, the person, or persons, in charge of these buildings is not in this area anymore. So, we still have alarms going off in the buildings, I’ve seen them going off myself personally, but they’re not being displaced by anybody because there’s no one handy to do so. So, then the Fire Department is getting called out on some real unnecessary calls.”
Earle said some false alarms are caused by residents at long term care homes pulling alarms, while others are related to cooking that got a little too smoky.
In addition to the vacant buildings, Earle said that civic numbers — of lack thereof — are a big problem.
“Sometimes, we have to go up the road, back the road, up the road, and back the road again,” said Earle. “There’s lots of roads, and not many numbers on the houses.”
Earle said he heard of a municipality in Labrador that gave residents a deadline on getting a visible civic number on their homes. Past that date, the town provided non-complaint residents with a civic number, the cost of which was added to their taxes.
Earle said that even if a smoke alarm is going off at a home, it may not be apparent from the outside that there is a problem, and firefighters cannot tell by simply looking at a building if there is a problem inside.
Town CAO Cynthia Davis said the Town does have a civic number policy, and that it could be reviewed if need be. She said in the past the Town has reminded residents of the importance of a visible, civic number, and that perhaps they could do something like that again.
“I would expect if the Fire Department is having these issues, than I would think that other emergency responders, like ambulance services, would be having these issues,” added Davis.
Mayor Frank Butt said the Town would give priority to addressing the issue.
Meanwhile, the department is the process of getting all members, of which there are now 40, to a Level 1 standard. Members who get their Level 1 can then attend fire school and get their gold seal.
Earle also offered the department’s assistance to upcoming Home Year Celebrations.