By Jamie Rieger
Often when a large fire breaks out, it may be too much for a small, rural fire department and its equipment to handle. So neigbouring municipalities work together to get the fire under control as quickly as possible, ensuring the safety of nearby residents, buildings, and livestock.
That means a well-coordinated effort by the fire chiefs and all the crew involved. Knowing what each person’s role is during any emergency is vital in getting the job done in a quick and safe manner, said Dennis Mann, emergency services chief for Cypress County.
Cypress County has eight fire halls (Jenner, HIlda, Irvine, Onefour, in Redcliff for the Box Springs volunteer fire department, Schuler, Seven Persons, and Walsh. It also maintains trucks at CFB Suffield, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, and the City of Medicine Hat.
Cypress County has a an agreement with the City to provide suppelemental and specialty services in the county when needed.
“With us working with our neighbouring municipalities, we have had great success in mitigation. We can send more equipment and get it there faster. It lessons the chance of the fire getting any larger,” said Mann. “We have a very good working relationship with them and we work very well with our neighbours.”
On occasion, there has been a sharing of resources with Montana fire crews when large grassfires erupt.
“When they have come up to help, they have never sent us a bill. We would help them, too. At the big fire at Onefour, they sent trucks and were a great help,” he said.
Nathan Cote, emergency services chief for the County of Forty Mile has eight volunteer fire departments in his area; Aden, Bow Island, Burdett, Etzikom, Foremost, Kings Lake Colony, Manyberries, and Pendant D’Oreille.
“Municipalities have been working together to fight fires for years and we do have mutual aid agreements in place,” said Cote.
Perhaps the success of the many volunteer fire departments working well together comes in part because often, they collaborate on training courses.
A course may be held in Bow Island or Dunmore, for example, and have participants from throughout Cypress County, the County of Forty MIle, and beyond.
“We do get funding for these courses from a fire services training grant and get between $20,000 and $30,000 a year and hold anywhere from 10 to 12 courses a year,” said Cote. “We often get participants from MD of Taber and the County of Newell. They may not be a part of this region, but they are allowed to participate. It works very well for everybody.”Cote added that by training alongside one another, they volunteer firefighters become familiar and form comaraderies.
“It does help the guys to work together.”