On Jan. 30 at approximately 1:15 p.m. an alarm burst from the speaker of a walky-talky held above Deputy Chief for the Elk Valley and South Country Fire Services, Michael Hockley’s, head. What followed was fire dispatch welcoming the Elko fire hall to the area.
“I grew up in Elko so the fire department has been a long time coming. I think that it is an excellent service to have here. It now provides the residents of Elko with first responder and fire services,” said Hockley.
The Elko local has been working for the fire hall since late fall.
“I was hired on in November as the Deputy Chief,” said Hockley.
The department’s Fire Chief, Dave Boreen, believes that Elko was a puzzle piece that the area needed to complete its fire and first responder coverage.
“It covers the holes in the system. Before this we didn’t have anyone that would come for fire suppression other than wild land because the forest services respond to that,” he said.
Boreen has been a memeber of the local fire community for over 20 years.
“I was a part of the department since the start for Elko. I have been with the regional district for eight years as my career and 15 years as a volunteer before that. Before I came here, I was in the Fernie Fire Department,” he said.
Elko will also serve more than just its area by supporting its neighboring halls.
“We will also be able to support Fernie and Jaffray with vehicle rescue on the highways,” said Boreen.
“A good day is when there are no calls. [Volunteers] have a radio, when the tone go off they respond to the hall. From there we tell them if it was an accident, a fire, or what kind of incident it is and what it involves. Then they get dressed in their gear and respond,” said Hockley.
Fires are not the primary call for fire halls in this area. Instead departments are more often called to accidents.
“It depends on the season and a lot of things. The most common calls in the south country between Jaffray and Banes Lake are accidents and motor vehicle accidents. So a lot of first responder calls. In the summer there is a lot of wild land interface calls,” said Hockley.
While the responding squads size may range, there are almost 20 volunteers at the department.
“We have about 17 volunteers on paper and 10 to 12 that show up. They are all paid on-calls so that means they are on-call all the time. If they can answer it when the tones go off they will go to the hall for response,” said Hockley.
While the hall is open, the training is not yet fully complete. The hall is waiting for the next first responder training session.
“We will get the first responders training next month,” said Boreen.