Firefighter’s home saved by colleagues
MD of Foothills: No structures lost in four-section grassfire southwest of
Wednesday, Apr 08, 2015 06:00 am
An MD of Foothills firefighter had a home to go to thanks to the efforts of her colleagues and a bit of help from Mother Nature.
Volunteer firefighter Charlotte Fisher received a call of a grassfire northeast of Blackie was at her family home the afternoon of March 31.
“I was upset because I thought the house was on fire,” Fisher said, who was in Vulcan on business with her husband Jeff at the time. “We were getting phone calls that there was smoke coming from the back of the house.”
Appearances can be deceiving. Firefighters were able to keep the fire about 30-feet from the Fishers’ home.
“I got home and I thanked the firefighters for what they have done,” said Fisher while volunteering at the Blackie Lions pancake breakfast Saturday. “I’m very proud and happy with what they did.”
However, there was no rest for the worried.
“Then I called our fire chief and asked if they needed me out there,” Fisher said. “He said yes, so I headed out there. I didn’t really get to see the damage to our house until the next morning.”
She said a shift of the 70km per hour winds also helped save the home.
Other than the house smelled smoky for a few days, there was no structural damage to the Fishers’ home. Amazingly, there was no damage other than burned fenceposts caused by the grassfire which covered approximately four-sections of land.
MD of Foothills Fire Chief Jim Smith said it received the call about the fire, which was caused from a spark from a lawn tractor, at 3:25 on March 31.
“My biggest concerns out there were the people, the homes and the vehicles,” Smith said. “Job one is keeping the firefighters safe, because without them we can’t do the job.”
The high winds from the southwest provided a huge challenge to the firefighters.
“We had no control over how the fire was jumping because embers would jump and start a new fire,” Smith said. “The wind would pick up an ember and throw it behind us in an area we haven’t even touched yet and it takes off again.
“We just didn’t have any control over it.”
Typically, fires are fought by fighting going in the same direction of the blaze.
“This time we had to change tactics because we had so many houses in the fire’s path,” Smith said. “So we actually deployed forces right into the fire’s path. We had to protect the homes.”
Homes were saved through blood, sweat and smoke.
“We did it with lots of people, lots of water and foam and just sheer determination,” Smith said. “The guys did a marvelous job, and ate a lot of smoke, fire and dirt to save that (the Fishers’) house, but they saved it.”
It was a team effort.
Firefighters from Blackie, Okotoks, High River, Heritage Pointe, Longview, Vulcan, Cayley and Claresholm fire houses helped put out the grassfire near the east border of the M.D. of Foothills. Smith also credited the local farmers for the role they played in extinguishing the blaze.
The fire was controlled about 11 p.m. with crews on scene extinguishing hot spots until 1:30 a.m. Unfortunately, the firefighters were back at it the next day after high winds reignited the blaze.
“The wind came up and started throwing the embers around,” Smith said. “We were probably out there for a good eight hours the second day.
During the blaze, the MD of Foothills declared a state of emergency which Reeve Larry Spilak said was due to the fact that all of the regions fire-fighting resources were tied up and left most of the MD unprotected.
“It was to a point where our emergency group were contemplating calling in the fire bombers because it was moving that quickly towards the houses and other properties,” he said. “We had every fire department in the region on one location. If something else would have happened in a different location we would have had a problem.”
Despite that, Spilak said they made a decision not to issue an alert through the MD Emergency Alert System as it would have alerted the entire Foothills region, whereas only six houses in a very specified region needed to be notified.
“Part of me says everybody has a right to know what is going on in the MD so we should be utilizing it,” he said. “On the other hand what our emergency people stated in saying that could create some panicking and some responses that weren’t necessary makes sense too.”
Spilak said in the future, they’re hoping to be able to send alerts to individual areas of the MD.
Fire ban issued
Following the wildfire, the MD of Foothills has issued a fire ban throughout the MD due to the dry conditions that had crews battling a number of blazes throughout the week.
“Right now the fire ban means there’s no open burning whatsoever in the MD of Foothills including any burn barrels or warming fires,” said Foothills Fire Chief Jim Smith. “All those need to be extinguished if they are burning until conditions improve.”