On any Wednesday evening, at any time during the year, most residents in the core historic zone of Dawson City can hear the sound of a siren cutting the silence. If it’s about 7:30 p.m., people will know that there’s nothing to be concerned about. It’s the practice meeting of the Dawson City Volunteer Fire Department (DCVFD) being called to order.
The fire department, which has been under the supervision of fire chief Jim Regimbal for the last decade, is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If that siren goes off at any other time, it means the men and women who volunteer are on the move to an emergency.
The department’s services extend beyond Dawson’s municipal boundaries thanks to mutual aid agreements with the Klondike Valley Fire Department in Rock Creek, the Yukon government (YG), and areas across the Yukon River that are outside the town’s boundaries. There is a similar agreement with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government.
With the assistance of YG, the department recently acquired a special truck so it can access fires where the larger vehicles can’t go. While the department responds to fires, such as the recent house fire in the Dome subdivision, it also assists in dealing with motor vehicle incidents.
The fire chief of DCVFD is the coordinator for the Territorial Emergency Measures Organization in the event of a disaster, as defined in the Civil Emergency Measures Act, for the City of Dawson. Last fall it had to coordinate a hazardous materials incident, when a liquefied natural gas tanker truck overturned near the Ogilvie Bridge.
The Dawson crew also cooperates with the Yukon Wildland Fire Management base near the Dawson airport, which handles wilderness fires and has assisted the town when there have been fires at the Quigley Landfill.
DCVFD has also been on site when events have occurred at the problem-plagued wastewater treatment plant on Fifth Avenue. In addition, it organized the provision of carbon monoxide alarms for all residents in the Klondike, and one of these has already been responsible for saving a family in West Dawson.
The fire department also performs and assists in rescue services, and was recently a key participant in the rescue of some stranded canoeists who were trapped on islands near Rock Creek when their craft was overturned by sweepers and high water.
Through Regimbal, who is the president of the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs, the department has been instrumental in pushing for a more organized system of civic numbering within the town boundaries, a spin-off from its efforts to get 911 emergency telephone services extended outside Whitehorse.
The department consists of Regimbal, as the full time fire chief, and 25 to 26 volunteers, including one deputy chief, one senior captain, and five additional captains.
While the volunteers do get call-out and training pay, none of them take that money home. Presently it is used to fund the department’s museum and pay for the summer manager