Thursday, 22 February 2018 06:07

Swift Current Fire Department provides support with structural fires for the Stewart Valley area

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A new fire protection agreement between three local authorities will allow the Swift Current Fire Department to provide support to the Stewart Valley Fire Department to fight structural fires.


The City of Swift Current has signed a fire protection agreement with the Rural Municipality (R.M.) of Saskatchewan Landing No. 167 and the Village of Stewart Valley to formalize this arrangement between the two fire departments.
Swift Current councillors approved the agreement at a regular council meeting, Feb. 12. That same evening the Swift Current Fire Department was dispatched to assist with a structural fire in Stewart Valley.
Swift Current Fire Chief Denis Pilon said the City’s firefighters were assisting on the scene for four hours. The house burned down, but there were no injuries.
“We’re looking at a 30-minute delay for us to get out there,” he mentioned. “So by the time we get there that fire is rip snorting anyway, it’s really going. So all we’re doing is helping them protect surrounding property.”
The Stewart Valley Fire Department is operated by the R.M. of Saskatchewan Landing. This volunteer fire department provides fire protection services to the entire rural municipality and to the village of Stewart Valley.
“They’re not trained or equipped to fight structural fires, and they noticed last summer that it was an issue,” Pilon explained. “They want help when it comes to those types of fires. They asked if we would be prepared to come help them when that happens. So we’ve signed the agreement with them and we will now respond out there for structural fires.”
The Stewart Valley Fire Department will still continue to take care of grass or wildland fires, and the Swift Current Fire Department will only assist with structural fires.
“They’ll take care of those grass fires and they’re still going to respond to structural fires, because it’s going to take us half an hour to get out there,” he said. “So we’re there to support them, back them up and give them the expertise. We’ve got the equipment to go inside the building, if we can, but we’re looking at that half hour delay. So we’re there to support them, more than anything.”
The Swift Current Fire Department had two meetings with the R.M. of Saskatchewan Landing Council to discuss the arrangements for this agreement, and both meetings were also attended by the clerk of the Village of Stewart Valley.
A key issue was the procedure that will be followed to dispatch the Swift Current Fire Department to a structural fire in the R.M. of Saskatchewan Landing area, because Sask911 does not have the capability to dispatch different fire departments based on the type of fire.
They were able to come up with a solution that is now part of the fire protection agreements as the formal dispatch procedure. They agreed that Sask911 will dispatch both the Stewart Valley Fire Department as well as the Swift Current Fire Department for all fires in the R.M. of Saskatchewan Landing area, including the village of Stewart Valley.
Swift Current Fire Department will then confirm with Sask911 the type of fire and only respond to a structural fire.
“Our guys will ask if it’s a structure fire or a grass fire, and if it’s a wildland fire of any sort, then we would stand down but remain on standby, knowing that there is a fire and they may want us to respond,” Pilon said. “If it’s a structural fire, we will immediately respond like we would to any other fire.”
Swift Current Fire Department already have agreements with other fire departments in the region for activities such as rescue services and to provide emergency support when required, but not a specific agreement for fighting structural fires.
“We have mutual aid agreements with all the surrounding communities,” he said. “So if they have a major incident they can call on us. For instance, the Town of Gull Lake called us to back them up when their hotel burned a year or two ago. So we’ve got mutual aid agreements that will allow us to go help them when they have those major fires. The R.M. of Swift Current has their own fire department, but they call us on a regular basis to supply water for them because we’ve got a tanker.”
He added that the new fire protection agreements with the R.M. of Saskatchewan Landing and the Village of Stewart Valley are similar to a mutual aid agreement, but it is more specific due to the focus on providing firefighting services for structural fires only.
“We already had a mutual aid agreement with Stewart Valley and Saskatchewan Landing, but this takes it to the next step, because it’s an automatic response,” he said. “So Sask911 will be paging us for fires in those locations. … They’ll page us directly when a fire call comes in and then we would ask the operator what type of a fire it is.”
Pilon does not anticipate that this agreement to provide service to the R.M. of Saskatchewan Landing and the Village of Stewart Valley will cause undue strain on the Swift Current Fire Department.
“We can still deal with it,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of fires out there. Last year they had one structural fire, and typically they have grass fires. They don’t have a lot of structural fires.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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