Kaleden had a network of standpipes in the community before 1972 but there wasn’t enough throughout the community to ensure that the fire department would have water near the scene of a fire.
A 1,000 gallon portable tank was purchased for use where access to a standpipe was not available, but it wasn’t long before the setup – which involved filling the tank from the number one truck and having it return to the nearest hydrant for more water- was proven to be inadequate.
Hydrants – which allow more water flow and require larger diameter pipes – were also considerably more expensive than standpipes back in the 1970’s.
Additional standpipes were purchased through the generosity of the hall board, who funded the standpipes from proceeds of weekly bingo games, at the time a major weekly event in Kaleden. The Kaleden Irrigation District did not have the responsibility to provide fire protection at the time, although an agreement had been reached with the KID by which any property being subdivided would result in developers paying for the installation of standpipes where needed.
Over the ensuing decades, standpipes have been slowly replaced by hydrants, which can provide better flow rates for firefighting. In 1991 the hydrants became the property of the KID.
Structure fires have never been a major component of the Kaleden VFD’s annual call out breakdown, but nonetheless remain the most important type of incident to which the department responds.
There have been several structure fires of note over the years – from the Simpson house on Oak Avenue in July of 1976 to what was probably the largest structure fire ever fought by the department – the St. Andrews golf course lodge in August of 1994 – to the most recent one, a chimney fire that spread to an adjacent wall, which the department fought in January of 2012.
Grass and brush fires were more common in the Kaleden fire protection area in the 1970’s and 80’s. The department still responds to one or two each year, but changes to burning regulations and increased awareness and public education seems to be working to reduce the number of man-caused wildfires.
The department has responded to numerous motor vehicle accidents over the years, several of them fatalities, both within the community and along Highway 97 and 3A. The Highway 3A and 97 junction, the “S” curves on Highway 3A and the stretch of Highway 97 between the Petrocan station and the fruit stands continue to be the fire protection area’s most dangerous stretches of road.
In recent years, the department has responded most frequently to ambulance assist calls and burning complaints.
The department plays a continuing role in citizen education through presentations to the local elementary school and a monthly column in the local newsletter.
There may be signs that the role of the department is changing, as better housing construction, increasing awareness and education of the public, and improving safety of automobiles combine to reduce the number and severity of emergency calls.
In recent years, volunteer fire departments across North America have been plagued by a steadily decreasing volunteer rate. Kaleden has not been spared from this trend – the community is saddled with an increasingly aging population and high real estate prices that exclude home ownership by young families, further exacerbating the problem. Liability issues and the regionalization of local fire departments have also increased the work load of volunteers, who are increasingly finding themselves time contstrained to keep up with the additional training, regular practices, and emergency call outs that happen throughout the year.
Still, there are some noteworthy rewards in providing one’s services to a community volunteer fire department. A chance to meet other members of the community, engage in a very worthwhile activity (that remains affordable to the taxpayer while it is volunteer hands) and gain useful knowledge in a number of different disciplines are but a few.
Kaleden has had a strong history of volunteerism over the 40 year history of the department. There have always been obstacles to overcome, and today’s challenges are simply modern versions.
Based on the department’s solid past, the community has every reason to celebrate the department’s 40th year on June 17, with the expectation that the future will hold more of the same.
Join the department as they celebrate 40 years in the community at the KVFD Open House on June 17 from 2 – 4 p.m. Firefighters will be on hand to provide demonstrations and answer questions, and Sparky the Fire Dog will be on hand to entertain the kids.