All four fire departments in the Alberni Valley teamed up earlier this month for a practice session at Sproat Lake.
The departments formed a “water relay” on Faber Road on Aug. 14 using multiple engines. Relays take place when the distance from the water supply to the fire scene is too great for a single engine.
The practice also involved the use of a dry hydrant, which is an unpressurized, permanently installed pipe that has one end below the water level of Sproat Lake. The other end is above ground and has a hard sleeve connector that allows firefighters to connect a fire engine to pump water directly from the lake.
Sproat Lake is the only fire department in the Alberni Valley that has dry hydrants, Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department (SLVFD) Chief Mike Cann explained.
“We’re unique in the way that we don’t have a water system,” he said. “We have three dry hydrants. [Other departments] don’t often get an opportunity to practice on dry hydrants.”
All four fire departments in the Alberni Valley are part of an automatic aid agreement (AMA). Under this agreement, neighbouring fire departments respond automatically to significant fires in each other’s districts.
“Each department hosts an AMA practice each year,” Cann explained. “With COVID, we haven’t been able to practice together like this in a year and a half. It’s good to be back practicing with everyone.”
Crews from Port Alberni, Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek and Sproat Lake practiced on Aug. 14 using the dry hydrant behind the Faber Road fire hall. Each department took turns learning how to “draft,” or pump to get the water flowing. Three other trucks, along with a series of hoses, were laid out along Faber Road to practice relay pumping.
The SLVFD recently made the decision to decommission the Faber Road fire hall. The department has three different fire halls, and an assessment determined that the Faber Road hall was “redundant,” so the area will not be losing any protection status.
Cann says that Faber Fire Hall will continue to be used for practices, like this one, and will house the department’s smaller rescue truck for first responder calls.