Review of rural fire risk

Brazeau County is looking at ways to supply water for fighting fires in some parts of the municipality. A Fire Suppression Review brought to council this week suggests that there are some areas that are more than 20 minutes away from a water source that’s accessible to the fire department.

Although wildland fires have been at the forefront of public consciousness over the last several months, Fire Chief Tom Thomson said the majority of structure fires in the County were caused by heating or electrical issues. It’s important for the fire department to be familiar with water sources before an emergency takes place.

While sources of open water such as rivers and ponds can be of some use, they can be difficult to access, especially in winter. It also takes longer to get water out of a pond than it does from a hydrant.

In the event of a major fire in a rural area the fire department has three water tenders which will operate to shuttle water to the scene from the nearest source. That’s usually from the fire halls in Breton, Lodgepole or Drayton Valley.

A review of the county’s residential areas and hamlets identified prime areas of concern in Birchwood and Lindale, along with the hamlet of Buck Creek. In all of those cases the nearest reliable water supply for fire suppression was more than 20 minutes away.

Thomson said that possibly the best solution might be for the County to purchase an additional truck. Such a vehicle would be able to carry 12,000 litres of water and be able to provide service to whichever part of the municipality it was needed. However the price tag for a truck like that was estimated at up to $500,000. Thomson said that using a private contractor was less than ideal since there was no guarantee the contractor would be immediately available in the event of a major fire.

Reeve Bart Guyon said he felt that there was an opportunity to reach out to landowners who might have an available water source on their property they’d be willing to make available to the fire department. Council passed a motion to ask administration to look at the costs of bringing water to the areas it was needed, which will be discussed at a later date.

“At least we’ve got some time to plan and get ready for fire season next year,” Guyon said.

“I think we can explore some options before just buying another truck.”

Graham Long, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Drayton Valley and District Free Press