Foothills Fire Dept. receives life-saving donation

Foothills: New tools better prepare department for flood rescue

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014 05:33 pm

Priddis firefighter Josh BArry shows off the new water rescue jet boat awarded to the M.D. of Foothills Fire Department
Priddis firefighter Josh BArry shows off the new water rescue jet boat awarded to the M.D. of Foothills Fire Department
JORDAN VERLAGE/OWW

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The Foothills Fire Department won some real horsepower to help boost its ability to rescue people in an emergency at Spruce Meadows earlier this month.

The department was awarded a $250,000, as well as a Ram 1500 4x4 truck and an 18ft rescue boat, and gear and training for swift water rescue on behalf of Spruce Meadows and a large group of corporate sponsors from the area on June 8.

The donation was made in recognition of the department’s hard work during the 2013 flood.

Kurby Court, vice president of special features at Spruce Meadows, said they were eager to salute Alberta’s first responders after last year’s flood.

“With The National tournament we’ve always stopped to be community minded and saluted community in some form,” he said.

They decided to focus on a swift water rescue donation after hearing about the death of 35-year-old Amber Rancourt who was swept away with the water after her camping trailer overturned near Longview.

“We had received word that there had been a loss of life in rural Alberta, in particular the MD area,” he said. “And it was a direct result of the surrounding circumstances of the flood and the available equipment, the training and resources that were readily available.”

“We as an organizing group said ‘is there anything we can do to help assist in a small way to stop this from ever occurring again? In emergencies you can never predict exactly what is going to happen, but perhaps we could provide a small donation to assist.”

Foothills Fire Department Deputy Chief Gregg Schaalje accepted the donation, and said they were completely honoured and humbled to be selected out of all the first responder units in the area.

“It’s a lifesaving tool. It’s just enhanced our service so much in water capabilities,” he said. “We've got two rivers that during 80 per cent of the year aren't really dangerous, but once the Sheep and the Highwood start getting to this time of the year, they become very dangerous. And now we have the capabilities to help out our citizens. It’s just an unbelievable gift.”

Schaalje said losing Rancourt during the flood last year was extremely difficult for their department. The Longview firefighters watched her for nearly two hours, but were unable to reach her before she was swept away.

“They had no tools in the toolbox,” he said. “Today I’m happy to say we have a bunch of tools in our toolbox. Heaven forbid we go back into that situation, we don’t have to watch we can actually try to pull those tools out and utilize tools to save somebody's life.”

Court said the decision to give the donation to the Foothills department was made after consulting with 25 first responding agencies, of which multiple suggested Foothills.

MD of Foothills Reeve Larry Spilak attended the ceremony at Spruce Meadows and said he was thrilled that Foothills was selected.

“It wasn’t a total surprise,” he said. “We're aware that our firefighters stand with the best in the country, and in lieu of all of the work they did during the 2013 flood, I just thought it was probably a very good choice and well deserved.”


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