Codroy Valley Volunteer Fire Dept. helps area residents weather a brutal storm
By RYAN KING
CODROY VALLEY – Government agencies and emergency services were kept busy the past couple of weeks dealing with the impact of the storm that sent unprecedented amounts of rain to the southwest coast, and the Codroy Valley Volunteer Fire Department (CVVFD) was no exception. Geographically in the middle of the washouts, they nonethless took on a number of responsibilities throughout the region.
“As a fire department we were tasked with, I’m going to say a few things, but at the end of the day I’m going to say we did a lot of things,” said Fire Chief Brian Osmond.
Among their responsibilities was securing safe areas for the helicopters to land as they moved materials and people in and out of the region.
“When they were landing out in different locations (i.e., up by the Codroy Seafoods and stuff like that) we just made sure that the area was safe for them to come in and land, making sure there was no vehicles,” said Osmond.
The department was also involved in ground transportation. They brought individuals to the St. Andrews airstrip and drove staff as far as the weigh scale washout.
“Then they would cross over, and then there was another vehicle on the other side to take the medical staff right to the Charles L. LeGrow,” said Osmond.
Even after the highway opened, the department transported medical staff back to their vehicles that had been left in Doyles. Osmond shared that they also played a role with three medevacs. One involved search and rescue performing a rescue at night. Another was a medical emergency.
“We got indirectly involved because we were waiting for a helicopter to come in, and when the helicopter came in the ambulance was enroute, so we just stayed back and helped them out. And then there was a third one that went out, directed by Western Health. We assisted by making sure the patient got to the airstrip. They didn’t require an ambulance,” explained Osmond.
The department also helped with the transportation of essential items. In one case they needed to bring medication across the break at Overfalls for people in South Branch. Another delivery Osmond did personally, which involved a temperature-sensitive medication.
When they became cut off from South Branch, the Fire Commissioner called Osmond to see how he could help.
“The Fire Commissioner was calling me and asking what he could do for us, and at the present time we got portable equipment up in South Branch that was brought down the next day from Fire Emergency Newfoundland to protect the community members up there so we could get up there and help out. But we couldn’t get a fire truck over there, but we have portable equipment. And the fire department from Jeffreys and that probably would’ve come out to assist us if we ever had something, and knock-on-wood, our prayers were answered and nothing ever did happen.”
The fire department also dealt with a number of flooded basements. In one case, a business had 20 to 25 inches of water in its basement. Osmond said that many residents had pumps, but the department also provided some to help.
“I think at one point we had five or six pumps out in operation to help the residents of the Codroy Valley with their basements.”
The firefighters also helped with the distribution of food and supplies. On one day Colemans sent in food, and the department distributed it to four stores in the area.
“The same day that Port aux Basques got the milk delivery, we also got milk airlifted in to do the same thing up here, and we went back to the same four stores, and we included the two restaurants that are out here just to make sure they had milk so they could keep feeding people. The workers, the majority of the time the workers were getting stuff there,” said Osmond.
The volunteer fire department also assisted in other ways.
“We did some non-medical requirements with different organiaations, and I won’t go into details with these, but we did help out some non-medical for a family, and we made sure that everything was good for these guys,” said Osmond.
Another way that the fire department helped was transporting paramedics to scenes.
“We had a medical call and the paramedics had to respond to another call. The ambulance was tied up with a patient waiting for a medevac, so the fire department took a member of their team and took them over to the second call because we were at the scene, and we just made sure that everybody was being looked after. So we were asked to bring a paramedic or an EMT over to the second location and we had no problems doing that,” said Osmond.
The fire department also assisted other emergency services by checking safe routes in the area every day.
“Myself and the Deputy Chief almost every day made a run around, just making sure that the routes were safe routes for us in the event of an emergency – the same with the ambulances. Every day we relayed the information that we collected,” said Osmond.
Knowing the quickest route was critical information.
“For example, there was one between St. Andrews and Searston. And if we had an emergency call for our fire truck to go to St. Andrews that’s the route that we would take, but due to the break we had to go what we call the long route. But if we didn’t know that, then the response time would have been really bad.”
Osmond was thankful that there was only one emergency call that they responded to – a trailer from an 18 wheeler caught fire.
“By the time we got there the driver had it put out, but that was the only call that we had,” said Osmond.
Once the roads re-opened, the fire chief said the situation returned to normal fairly quickly.
“I think the majority of it was that people needed to get out and restock. That’s my opinion, and technically after eight days you had to be running out of stuff, especially to get milk, to get the staples.”
Osmond said that the firefighters were happy to lend a hand.
“We’re here to support the community. The community supports us 110 per cent as a fire department, because if it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t have a fire department, because we don’t have any municipality funding or LSD funding. So everything that comes in as a donation, that’s what we operate with. Where we get our donations is from the community members, and the communities around the Codroy valley that have cottages up in the area. But for them, we wouldn’t be here. So it was a way that we could say thank you, and make everything work good for them, and at least they knew someone was coming with portable pumps. Whatever they required, we did it,” said Osmond. “We did our best.”
Even during their own struggle with the storm and its aftermath, Osmond said the community continued to show support for the fire department.
Mary O’Gorman of Hillside Dairy received help from the fire department when her basement was flooded. In appreciation, the dairy donated $200. The volunteer organization St. Ann’s Guild also gave the department a cheque for $1000.
“During the extreme weather conditions and road washouts, the Codroy Valley Volunteer Fire Department have been very busy helping the residents of the Codroy Valley in many aspects from pumping out basements, assisting medical teams in transporting patients to hospitals, delivering food to the various business in the area, delivering medications, and much more. Anyone requesting help, they did their best to provide whatever was needed,” said Lydwena MacArthur on behalf of the St. Ann’s Guild.
Osmond said that it proved to be a learning and rewarding experience.
“At least now when this is all over, we can sit down and probably build a little plan on how we’re going to coordinate it if and when – and I’m hoping it never will – if this happens again. It doesn’t need to be floods or washouts. It can be any emergency,” said Osmond. “So there’s not one part of the community that won’t be protected by us.”