Fire services have returned to Pelly Crossing, Yukon, after a decade without

Pelly Crossing’s scene safety response unit during training this month. The 4-person unit is equipped with basic fire suppression gear which includes a truck with a 300-gallon water tank, a foam injection system, a pump, safety vests, and traffic cones. (Yukon fire marshal’s office)

It’s been at least 10 years since Pelly Crossing, Yukon, had any form of local fire services.

That changed last week with the creation of the scene safety response unit.

“The scene safety response unit is basically a level below what a fire service would be,” said Devin Bailey, Yukon’s fire marshal. “They’re not considered firefighters, they’re considered fire support workers.”

To establish a scene safety response unit there must be a minimum of four people who successfully complete the training program offered by the Yukon fire marshal’s office.

Bailey said in the event of a fire emergency, their role is to keep the public away from the area, to liaise with first responders, and to protect surrounding structures.

“They’re taught safety around power lines and what to do around downed power lines,” he said. “They’re taught about basic wildland fire strategies.”

He said a big focus of the training was “scene size-up.” That’s the communication process between the dispatch service and unit members when they arrive on scene.

The scene safety response unit is equipped with basic fire suppression gear which includes a truck with a 300-gallon water tank, a foam injection system, a pump, safety vests, and traffic cones.

Bailey says Pelly Crossing is the latest Yukon community to have this type of fire service.

Ross River, Destruction Bay, and Keno City have also implemented scene safety response units. Bailey said by the end of the summer, Old Crow will be added to the list.

‘I care about this community’

Darcy Marcotte is a community safety officer with the Selkirk First Nation in Pelly Crossing. He told CBC News that his day job is to ensure his community is safe so it was a natural fit for him to join the unit.

“I live in this community,” he said. “I have family here. I’ve been here for 23 years. I care about this community.”

Marcotte explained the significance of having fire services in the community again.

“We haven’t had a volunteer fire department here for at least 10 to 12 years,” he said.

When a fire emergency is reported in Pelly, firefighters are dispatched from Mayo, Carmacks, or Whitehorse. Each of those communities are at least an hour away.

Marcotte said when he became the community’s safety officer in 2019, one of the first things he wanted to do was get the fire department up and running again. He said that came with a lot of challenges that ultimately led to it not happening.

“There was a lot of paperwork,” he said. “You get people coming in and filling out paperwork but they wanted everything from medical check to criminal record check, and there was just so much where people started dropping off. It was too intrusive.”

Last year he connected with the Yukon fire marshal’s office to see what could be done.

This year the scene safety response program was brought to Pelly.

“There’s four of us,” he said. “We went through our scenarios and I guess we were being marked, but we all passed.

“Now we’re certified. If we get an emergency call we can jump into our pumper truck and we can go out to the fire, or whatever it is.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Nearly 50 people flee Wekweètì as wildfire rages near community, CBC News

Norway: Smoke from Canadian wildfires forecast to reach Norway, The Associated Press

Russia: New NOAA report finds vast Siberian wildfires linked to Arctic warming, The Associated Press

Sweden: Fire bans in force across large parts of Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Wildfires in Anchorage? Climate change sparks disaster fears, The Associated Press

Chris MacIntyre, CBC News

Chris MacIntyre is a CBC reporter in Dawson City, Yukon.

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