When a wildfire threatens a community, wildland and municipal firefighters need to work together. The many differences between these types of firefighting can complicate matters – often, even the hoses and hose connections used are different. But one tool in Alberta’s firefighting arsenal is helping to bridge this gap.
May in Alberta typically means one thing: dry. Before the grass turns green, the risk of wildfire is great – and last May proved no different. Despite our best efforts, wildfires can approach communities. And on May 12thof last year, that’s exactly what happened: a wildfire threatened to enter the hamlet of Lodgepole, in western Alberta.
Although it is the responsibility of each community to protect itself from fire, our wildfire staff supports local firefighters when available. And in this case, the Slave Lake Wildfire Management Area (WMA) sent a unique kind of reinforcement.
It’s a structural protection unit that bridges the gap between wildland and municipal firefighting equipment. And if you think it looks a lot like a set of sprinklers, you’re right: that’s exactly what it is.
After the wildfires that overwhelmed communities in the lesser slave region in 2011, the government allocated $20 million to develop a FireSmart plan in that area. A priority of this plan was developing versatile resources, just like this one, for protecting communities from wildfire.
Slake Lake WMA’s sprinkler trailer – which is capable of protecting 25 homes – is definitely versatile. Because it can be used with both wildland and municipal firefighting equipment, it can be used to support fire departments if a wildfire threatens a community, anywhere in Alberta. Although it was created to protect one particular region, it’s benefitting the entire province.
So, how did this new tool fare in Lodgepole? Well, luckily it was never needed – the wildfire
was contained west of the community. But if things had been different, it would have been crucial – and having it available let everyone breathe easier. Although we hope we won’t have to use it this summer, this trailer is now another important tool in Alberta’s wildfire fighting arsenal.