These two yellow porta-tanks, the one on the floor of the fire hall, and the one on the side of the fire truck, will hold up to 2000 gallons of water. These pieces of equipment will help the MVFD if the need arises to shuttle water from alternate water sources to the scene of a fire. /ANDREA ARNOLD

By Andrea Arnold

The McBride District Fire Department has been working hard to develop a “Plan B” for a water supply if a fire were to occur as the concern over available water levels continues within the Village of McBride.

“We have two options for alternative water sources available to us,” said Fire Chief Courtney Lipke. “It isn’t ideal but it will provide us with water without draining the village supply.”

The Valemount Volunteer Fire Department has loaned McBride two porta-tanks. These, along with McBride’s existing tank, can hold 3900 gallons of water at the scene of a fire if needed.  

Lipke explained what will happen if the department is called into action for a fire.

“All three trucks will respond to the scene full of water,” he said. 

Each of the larger trucks have a max capacity of 1000 gallons, and the smaller rescue truck can haul 500.  

“The water from the engine truck will start the initial attack as the water from the other two gets emptied into the porta-tanks. The truck will start by drawing from available hydrants but crews will be in close contact with the Village Public Works crew monitoring the village water supply. The other two trucks will go to one of the two water sources to re-fill and return. If Public Works tells us we have to stop using the village water because the water level has dipped to a predetermined level, then this re-fill process will continue as long as necessary.”

The department will either use water from the Fraser, which involves cutting a hole in the ice with a chainsaw, or another source on privately owned land. 

Although this is an ok solution to the water conservation issue Chief Lipke says it is not without its problems.  

“Firstly, time.  It will take time for the trucks to make each trip between the water source and the scene of a fire,” he said.  “Exactly how long would depend on location, weather and road conditions.”

The second issue could occur with the equipment. Chief Lipke explained that process of retrieving water from an open water source is called drafting. During the drafting process, especially during frigid temperatures, there is a lot of opportunity for equipment such as pumps, hoses, or valves, to freeze.

“We hope that this process does not have to be put into play,” said Lipke. “We hope there is no fire that puts us in this position, but also, as of Friday Jan 19th, the Village told me that currently we should have adequate water available to us should the need arise, but that is subject to change with weather and temperature.”

“One of the ways the community can help is by keeping an eye on chimneys, with frequent checks throughout the winter, not just once a year. Warm spells when fires are dampened down tend to soot up chimneys. Then, when cold weather arrives, the chimney is in prime condition for a chimney fire when the stove is first burned hot.”

The department is in continued communication with the Village and adjustments will be made to this plan as needed. 

Lipke wants to remind the community that if they find themselves in a fiery situation, to please call 911 before trying to, if safe, fight the fire. If it is not safe, to exit safely and let the department do their job.