From Meager Beginnings to Where We are Today
The establishment of a fire department on Anarchist Mountain was the brainchild and lifelong dream of longtime resident and pioneer, Eric Goodman, who lived on Long Joe Road from 1976 until his passing on December 5, 2012 at the age of 87. Because of the mountain’s very small population, this dream proved extremely difficult; however, in the early 1990’s, Joe Simoes and his family moved to Long Joe Road, became friends with Eric, and together they began planning toward the fulfillment of Eric’s dream.
Eric’s dream really started to materialize in early 2003 when a local developer, Adrian Erickson, purchased a firetruck and offered to donate it toward the establishment of a fire department. At the beginning of July of that year, with the help of the Minister of Forests & Fire Prevention, the firetruck was equipped with the minimal necessary equipment. On July 16, 2003, a devastating wildfire swept swiftly up the mountain face, and while the fire destroyed three buildings, the firetruck and volunteers were instrumental in saving several other residences as they worked alongside the Forestry and other volunteer fire departments.
In August, following the fire, Joe Simoes organized an intensive Forestry-sponsored course in Wildfire Fighting training, called the S-100 Course. This was held at his home on Long Joe Road and was open to anyone interested. Twenty-six Anarchist Mountain landowners volunteered to take the two-day course. Included in the group were both men and women.
Following this, the formal organization of a volunteer fire fighting society and fire department for the protection and safety of the residents of Anarchist Mountain was formed
Six individuals – Joe Simoes, Adrian Erickson, Eddy Grey, Irvin Redekopp, Greg Douglas, Peter Mavritsaki – formed the Anarchist Mountain Firefighters Society and on October 23, 2003, the Society became formally registered with six Directors of the Board. In 2004, Greg Douglas resigned from the Board and was replaced by Ajai Sehgal.
Eighteen volunteers made up the department in 2003, and in November, Chief Joe included a youth component in the recruitment program, and Zach Poturica, aged 14, joined the department and through the youth program, became a certified firefighter at the conclusion of the program. Since then three other youths have gone through the program.
Three acres of land at the intersection of Grizzly Road and Highway 3 were donated to the Society by Regal Ridge’s Adrian Erickson. Joe Simoes became the fire chief and he managed to acquire some basic fire truck equipment through the generosity of the forestry and surrounding fire departments, and purchased the any missing equipment required for Engine 42. The Society secured a line of credit, which, along with fund-raising and donations, created and supported the formation and operation of the new Anarchist Mountain Fire Department.
Training sessions were held every Wednesday until October 15th of 2003 at which time the firetruck had to be winterized, as there was no firehall. In the Spring, 2004, structural fire fighting inservice and wildfire review inservice was done every second Saturday, with regular training and practice sessions every second Wednesday. In late June, 2004, the volunteers were meeting every Wednesday for practice and training. Through donations by the developer of Regal Ridge, all firefighters were equipped with complete turn-out gear and wildfire fighting gear. Communication equipment for the fire fighters (radios, pagers) were donated, and a repeater station and base station was installed.. Breathing apparatus was donated for structural firefighting requirements.
Certification of the Fire Department required members to pass a number of tests – stair climb, hose hoist, forcible Entry, Hose Advance & Victim Rescue. This required the volunteers to construct a tower, make a “forcible Entry” device, and a “dummy” for the victim rescue. The members passed with flying colours.
The Society’s six directors, through the line of credit, purchased a 40 x 60 metal building for the site. The site was prepared by the fire fighter volunteers and volunteers from the community. They used their own equipment, such as backhoes. The building permit was obtained, the septic field put in, the footing and foundation laid, and volunteers assembled and erected the metal building under the guidance of the fire chief. All work was completed by the end of August 2004. Businesses in Osoyoos contributed materials and/or provided an “at-cost” price on materials. Electrical and Heating was been installed, as well as the well water system and rough plumbing. The latter was done by a professional hired by the Society.
In July 2004, Firefighter Redekopp organized the first of many Summer BBQ’s to commemorate the July 16, 2003 wildfire, with the help of many volunteers. The BBQ’s were open to residents and visitors of both Anarchist and Sidley Mountain and were held at the firehall. These became an annual event through 2009, after which time the fire department joined with the Anarchist Mountain Community Society, and together have continued this tradition at a location on the mountain.
Also in 2004, Firefighter Redekopp, along with volunteers, organized the first annual Christmas Potluck, again open to residents and visitors of both Anarchist and Sidley Mountain. This event took place usually a week prior to Christmas, and at the December 2005 event, Firefighter Don Scott began his tenure as the one who provided the “entertainment” (games, etc.) following the dinner. This event took place inside the firehall. At the December 2013, both firefighter Redekopp and Scott retired from this event, leaving it for others to continue the tradition.
In March, 2005, another devastating event occurred that affected the Department greatly. A break-in at the firehall saw nearly $100,000.00 worth of gear and equipment stolen, leaving the Department inadequately protected. Fortunately, with the assistance of our suppliers, the RCMP, and many Fire Departments around the Province, the Department was back in service in less than a week’s time. The members became stronger from this experience, and even more determined to continue training to provide fire protection for the residents of our mountain.
In early 2005, the Society and Fire Department began working with our Regional District in an effort to have the volunteer firefighters and fire department under the umbrella of the Regional District, as were most of the other volunteer fire departments in the regional district. Up until this time, the Anarchist Mountain Firefighters Society was covering all costs for all operations and equipment and utilities. After a successful referendum in July 2005, the AMFD became a volunteer fire department under the Regional District Okanagan/Similkameen, and all costs shifted to the residents through taxation. The Society continued to support the Fire Department through special events, donations and fund-raising until its dissolution on December 31, 2009.
In 2007, Regal Ridge developer Adrian Erickson worked with Fire Chief Simoes in designing a firetruck made for the conditions of our mountain. On August 7th, Adrian Erickson, President of Regal Ridge Development Corporation, donated the new “state of the art” 2007 Rosenbaurer Custom 4×4 Pumper, valued at approximately $450,000, at a presentation ceremony where officials and the members of the public were invited. Regional District Chair, Dan Ashton, stated: “This marks the first time in the 41 year history of the RDOS that a private donation of this magnitude has come to a Regional District Fire Department.” The Rosenbaurer continues to be the Department’s primary engine, replacing several outdated units, and the Fire Department is forever grateful for the donation.
Prior to Chief Joe’s retirement, he designed a mezzanine area at the end of the firehall opposite the doors, built again with volunteers. While small, this served as a meeting place with a “goodies” counter, and a makeshift office and storage area
In December, 2008, Chief Joe Simoes retired, appointing Officer John Nett as Interim Chief. John, in his speech at the Christmas Potluck, thanked Joe for his extensive contribution, and acknowledged that through his personal efforts, he made this fire department a reality. John served in the position of fire chief until January 31, 2011. John improved and built upon the organization created by Chief Joe, and was responsible for many needed renovations.
This included the extension with its bathrooms downstairs and the expansion of the mezzanine area on the upper floor, again all done by volunteers. As a now much larger area, it then served for both training/meeting sessions and some community meetings and events. Adjacent to the meeting area was a section used for storage of gear, chairs and tables. This was later followed with added insulation to the walls and ceiling, along with sheathing and painting of the interior walls.
During Chief Nett’s tenure, he also replaced the aging Water Tender with a new one – Tender 111.
2011 – 2015
In February 2011, Rob Burk assumed the role as Fire Chief and shortly afterwards, the AMFD began expanding the services provided to the community. The first Jaws of Life was purchased along with rope gear through donations to the Department, and the First Responder program saw its beginnings.
During Chief Burk’s tenure, the mezzanine area was further improved, and under the guidance and organization of Captain Darren Hutchinson, he and other volunteers, in particular, Deputy Chief Zach Poturica and firefighter David Strohmann, spent countless hours in the upgrading of the Firehall and mezzanine area.
The renovation involved, among other things, additional insulation, re-wiring by firefighter Urs Grob, heating unit changes, framing, OSB sheathing on the walls and ceiling and painting, the enclosure of the mezzanine area and separation of the meeting area, inclusion of a kitchen area, a separate office area, and an added window for ventilation. Downstairs, Firefighter Henry Woronko constructed individual gear storage units for all firefighers. As well, additional storage areas were constructed.
Chief Burk updated and added vehicle equipment during his time. Through his relationship with the Fort McMurray Fire Department, he negotiated to donation of the Rescue vehicle . In addition, he researched and purchased two other back up vehicles in 2013– another tender and another backup fire truck. As a result of these acquisitions, the AMFD has the capacity to transport 5500 gallons of water, thereby allowing the Department to provide water on a fire, especially important in our arid climate.
In addition to the above three vehicles, Chief Burk acquired a new bush truck which gives us reliable rapid response and initial firefighting capacity.
To add further to the AMFD fleet, in February 2012 Firefighter Arlyn Greig presented the AMFD with a cheque for $10,000 for an ATV type of vehicle that could hold a small water or foam tank, and being a 4×4, be able to attend to a wildfire quickly with two or more firefighters.. As a result, a 2011 Polaris Ranger Diesel 900 was found and transported from Williams Lake by former chief Joe Simoes, and outfitted with a blade and winch that serves as snow removal at the firehall during the winter. Ms. Greig’s donation covered all costs. As well, in March 2013, Ms. Greig covered all the costs of the backup water tender.
The members of the AMFD had been asking for the First Responder training for several years, and in May, 2015, it finally came about. Ten members put their names forward and all ten completed the 50-hour course delivered by the Red Cross. Training provides pre-hospital care and CPR skills, teaches techniques for sustaining life, preventing further injuries and caring for illnesses and injuries until the next level of medical personnel arrives. The course also included CPR for Health Care Providers and the use of an AED (automated external defibrillator).
Volunteering as a First Responder is a huge commitment on the part of the AMFD members. It provides a vital service to the residents on the mountain and to those who travel through our area. It provides another level of care to those in need prior to the arrival of BC Ambulance and then continues by assisting the ambulance personnel until the patient is transported. Through generous donations, the AMFD has outfitted their First Response Vehicle with the necessary equipment to provide this service. Since May 2015, the First Responders answered several calls not only to accidents on the highway but also to residents in an emergency situation on the mountain.
The members continue to train to ensure that they are keeping up with their skills and improving on this service.
In September, 2015, Chief Burk retired, and Chief Urs Grob was appointed by the RDOS. As of the date of this writing, the AMFD consists of approximately 20 members, consisting of the Fire Chief, Deputy Chief, one Captain, three Lieutenants, Secretarial volunteers and a Communication Committee. The Fire Department is a paid-on-call Department, funded by the residents of Area “A”‘s Anarchist Mountain Fire Protection Area.
The AMFD’s Dispatch Centre is located in Kelowna and is a state-of-the-art 24/7 Emergency Dispatch Centre which provides communication services to over thirty fire stations in the Okanagan and Similkameen regions.
The volunteers of the AMFD are dedicated and committed to providing the best services as possible for the residents of our mountain. The AMFD maintains a close relationship with the Anarchist Mountain Community Society, and supports the Emergency Notification System and FireSmart.