Clearwater County fire crews, backed up by Ponoka County Regional Fire Services, West District (Rimbey), fought more than fire in an early January response.
Crews responded to a rural property in the northern part of Clearwater County on Jan. 4, 2022, responding to a residential structure fire.
The temperature on the day in question was around -30 C according to deputy chief Shawn St. Peter, and much colder once windchill was factored in.
“It’s not safe for guys to be working in that,” said St. Peter. “It makes operations difficult.”
Crews initially responded from Leslieville and Condor, however because of the remote location crews were also called in from Caroline, Rocky Mountain House and Rimbey as well to help shuttle water to the site.
Because of the remote location of the structure, which resulted in a 20 to 30 minute response time, when crews arrived on scene the structure was fully engulfed and on-scene commanders made the decision to fight the fire defensively to keep it from spreading.
Due to the cold temperatures, crews were unable to access water from nearby sources such as dugouts or streams, however tankers were able to start hauling some water from a nearby Hutterite colony.
“We are very thankful to them,” said St. Peter.
Additionally, the fire halls in Leslieville and Condor, each about 20 to 30 minutes away, have large cisterns in them which was used as water sources as well, though the distance from the fire proved challenging which is why Rimbey was also called in to provide tanker support.
“This time of year, (water) supply is always an issue,” said St. Peter.
Crews had the fire under control by late afternoon and for firefighter safety the decision was made to depart the scene around 5:30 or 6 p.m. instead of staying and putting out hot spots.
To help keep firefighters safe while they were fighting the fire, the crews took 20-minute turns on the fire line followed by a period of time in the rehabilitation trailer to warm up.
According to St. Peter, the structure continued to smoulder through Jan. 5.
The fire was was deemed to be accidental in nature, with overloaded electrical circuits due space heaters being run being a likely cause based on the homeowners report to responding crews.
St. Peter would like to remind homeowners to keep all additional winter heat sources, such as wood stoves, space heaters, etc., maintained and to monitor them for issues when they are in use.
Because of the cold, and frozen equipment, it took the Clearwater County fire crews until around 10 p.m. on Jan. 4 to get their equipment thawed, put away, and back into service.