Council raised the issue of the new residents of Erskine, Richard and Anita Gibbon, at their regular meeting on Wed. Feb. 13, 2019, The couple lost their home and garage to an electrical fire on Fri. Jan. 11.
They contacted Coun. Cheri Nietz about their concerns surrounding the fire hydrant located near their home as, later determined by Fire Chief Mark Dennis, the thread size and thread pitch was not the same as what the fire department’s equipment currently had.
The Stettler Regional Fire Department and Big Valley Fire Department made an impressive response time of 19 minutes from the moment of the call to arriving at the scene.
More than one of the 911 calls mentioned the fire may reach the curling rink so the first fire truck entered Erskine from the south alley between the curling rink and the structure on fire with means to prevent exposure to the curling rink area.
A second 3,000 gallon tanker was close behind so they connected to the fire hydrant and supplied water initially from the tank before supplying more water from the hydrant.
A downed power line prevented firefighters from accessing the other part of the alley.
By that time, the garage was fully involved and deemed a loss while the mobile home was beginning to catch fire including the deck.
The power company was then dispatched to take care of the line while the ladder truck was directed to travel down Volker Crescent where they dropped a water line before approaching the house.
Multiple water lines were deployed by this time.
They then explained to the Chief they couldn’t connect to the hydrant’s County of Stettler large port so Chief Dennis directed the firefighters to pull the line between the neighbour’s house to connect onto another truck which was already being fed water.
The fire department did have an adaptor for the small ports which could be connected to the smaller line before it connects to another adaptor which connects to a larger line but was directed to hook up to the other truck.
“Just because of the port doesn’t mean we are absolutely buggered. We can use the other ports,” said Dennis
“We like to use the big ports because then we can get the maximum amount of water supplied and get it out of the fire hydrant if it’s needed.”
Coun. Neitz asked if the nonworking hydrant on Volker Crescent affected the flow of water to which Dennis said, “No, there was no impact on the extinguishment of the fire. Did it hinder the fact of us getting a line to the other side to protect the exposure? Absolutely.”
Had the department decided to start with Volker Crescent, he admitted they would have made a much smaller impact on putting out the fire, potentially causing further damage.
Dennis also noted that, unlike the rest of Canada, Alberta has yet to legislate all fire hydrants be standardized thus causing issues as over the years municipalities buy different hydrants with different thread counts from different contractors.
“It’s unfortunate that way back when that the Alberta government didn’t step in and say ‘Hey, we need a standard for fire hydrants.’ I think at this point, the argument is who is going to pay for it and which municipality is going to bear the cost.
“So we, as operators, just make sure that our reach away partners and all the municipalities we service have the correct threads and make water flow from those hydrants,” said Dennis.
When the fire hydrants in Erskine were installed, engineers inspected by performing random checks to confirm water was available and that they functioned properly.
The County also flushes randomly selected hydrants twice a year but the hydrant located on Volker Crescent was not checked.
Alarmed by this event, the County had their utility personnel check each individual fire hydrant in the hamlets of Erskine and Botha.
“Parts have been ordered and hydrants will be repaired for any discrepancies identified under this complete review.”