The summer of 2003 was one of the worst recorded for forest fires in British Columbia. During this period, Bob Swart held position as a Structure Protection Specialist for the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner. Firestorm Enterprises Ltd. was born just a year later, incorporating in 2004. That summer saw over 300 homes and many businesses destroyed. More than 45,000 people were forced to evacuate and over 260 thousand hectors (640 thousand acres) of high value forest were destroyed. The estimated loss totaled more than 700 million dollars. The intensity of these fires has only since been surpassed by the fires in the summer of 2009.
Something had to be done to minimize the impact of wildfires in the Province. Thus, a 2003 Provincial review team was tasked to find answers to the many difficult questions and provide solutions.
The review team recommended that people use sprinklers to protect themselves. More specifically, they stated that communities and home owners in the wildland urban interface (WUI), a term for the place where the city meets the forest, should use sprinklers as a method of self-protection.
Enter Bob Swart, founder of Firestorm Enterprises Ltd. Bob became involved with the review team as a Fire Equipment Consultant. He was hired and tasked to build Structure Protection Units (SPU) as resources for the Province. These SPUs consisted of four enclosed trailers containing sprinkler protection equipment designed to assist fire fighters in protecting communities from wildfire.
The Trailers were built and ready by mid-July, 2004 and delivered for a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony meant to take place in Kamloops, BC. However, the night before at 10:30pm, Bob received a call from Doug Carey asking for his help in a fire emergency. Doug was from the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner for fire emergencies regarding structure protection duties.
Firestorm, or Bob and a 5-person Structure Protection Crew, departed that evening for the 18-hour journey to the Lonesome Lake Fire. They, of course, had a Structure Protection Unit in tow. Over three different days, Firestorm deployed sprinklers to save structures threatened by the fire. All 24 structures were saved through Firestorm and collective effort.
Fast forward from 2004 to 2013:
Over the years, Bob filled various incident command positions including structure branch director, structure protection specialist, division group supervisor, and strike team task force leader. Through his experience and observations, Bob knew there was room for improvement in tactics and strategies for structure protection assignments. After many productive debriefs and few drinks at their local watering hole that winter, Bob and others in the interface fire community came to an understanding. They collectively agreed that further training beyond the standard S-215 Fire and Operations in the WUI course was immediately required.
Bob and his cohorts became directly involved in supporting the benchmark of Canada's first "Structure Protection Program". This resulted in an accredited course by the Office of the Fire Commissioner. The course titled SPP-115 Structure Protection, was developed to improve structure protection practices. The course goal is to offer standardized terminology, strategies and tactics, and processes to be used by interface responders on structure protection assignments throughout British Columbia.
Bob was selected as one of three people authorized to instruct this course. He continues to deliver the course to Fire Agencies throughout British Columbia and supports Fire Agencies within Canada to develop their own Structure Protection capacities.
Firestorm Enterprise Ltd is proud to continue their work assisting communities providing knowledge and expertise, and proudly deploying sprinkler trailers and kits.