By Andrea Arnold
On Sunday, September 26, 2021, members of the McBride District Fire Department, along with the Valemount Fire Chief, attended a training session on the equipment used to protect structures threatened by forest fires.
McBride Fire Chief David Hruby was very pleased with the outcome of the training day.
âIf we needed the equipment and a trailer was available, our team would be able to get it running,â he said.
Equipment for the training was provided by the Ferndale / Tabor Department.
Ferndale / Tabor Fire Chief Bryant Kemble held a classroom session for the group before heading to Gaglardi Park just outside McBride. There the system – a series of sprinklers and hoses – was installed around the park as if to protect it from a pervasive fire. Water was pumped from the Fraser River and one-inch, Wasp, Butterfly and irrigation sprinklers covered the perimeter and structures with water.
Once the demonstration was over, the crew carefully packed everything into the trailer, only to learn that their day was not over. They were told they had half an hour to get to Koeneman Park and set up the system to protect both structures and the park from the oncoming “fire”. Prior to the exercise, warning tape had been attached to the trees to indicate the location of the fire.
The crew encountered several challenges that could be overcome in a real-life situation as they raced to meet the deadline. They installed sprinklers on the roofs of both buildings and along the edges of the trees.
âThey did really well,â said Chief Hruby. “I think if they were to take on this challenge again, they would cut their time in half.”
At the end, the group followed the line and discussed the challenges – how they could be avoided or overcome. One of those conversations involved a valve which, although a crew member verified it was in the closed position, was still leaking water, preventing other sprinklers further down the line from operating at full power. . In addition, a discussion on the importance of time management and legality took place at the conclusion.
The conversation included information regarding some of Kemble’s testimonies. Normally, teams of five are sent to a site with two trucks. The purpose of both trucks is to make sure everyone can get out, even if one truck breaks down. He also spoke of being dropped into a fire zone and having 15 minutes to settle in before the helicopter left.
The training was made possible through funding from the Office of the Fire Marshals, the Red Cross and the BC Fire Chief Association. The MDFD also purchased forest fire suppression hoses and some personal protective equipment with the money they received.
Valemount currently has a smaller Level 3 SPU trailer. They train with the equipment at least once a year at their training grounds.
âWe have about a dozen portable tanks,â said Valemount Fire Chief Rick Lalonde. “Often the structures we are protecting are not near a good source of water.” He said they used the funding to buy pagers, pumps and PPE.
âGrants are made available to rural communities to help small towns finance forest fire fighting equipment,â Hruby said. âThere have been three grants recently available: two focused on forest fires and one on rescue. This allows us to purchase large items.
He would like to be able to have an SPU on site, but with a price tag of $ 250,000, he doesn’t see that as a possibility.
âThere are 14 trailers across the province,â Hruby said. Seven of these are within four and a half hours of McBride, and each trailer is outfitted with supplies to potentially protect six properties (depending on proximity to the building)
âIf more funds became available, we would most definitely hold another training session,â Hruby said.