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Rural firefighters explore water delivery system

Implementation of tanker shuttle service could improve home insurance rates

Equipment upgrades to two regional volunteer fire departments might mean insurance companies don’t hose homeowners.

At the Thursday, November 27, Powell River Regional District board meeting, directors endorsed the concept and principle of Superior Tanker Shuttle Service, as recommended by Ryan Thoms, manager of emergency services for the Powell River Regional Emergency Program, at the regional district’s rural services committee recently. The board gave direction that the regional district fire services pursue such accreditation for the expanded safety protection, and subsequently, the enhanced insurance ratings and corresponding insurance premium benefits to affected taxpayers.

In his presentation to the committee, Thoms said two of the four rural fire services are able to move forward on this now.

He said there are two parts to the program: there is the fleet that is part of the fire service and there is a water component.

“Those two parts have to come together, and then the training and everything that goes along with it,” Thoms said.

With the recent investments that have been made in the Malaspina and Northside Volunteer Fire Department fleets, Thoms thinks the two departments are ready to move forward.

“It’s important for this committee to understand the implications of that,” Thoms said. “There are a lot of positive ramifications but there is certainly a lot of work for our fire departments.”

Committee chair Dave Murphy asked Thoms to explain how the system works.

Thoms said the goal of the system, and why Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS) of Canada calls this equivalent to fire hydrant protection, is that the objective is to move water to fire incident scenes at the same rate that water can be moved with an accredited fire hydrant.

He said water could be delivered to places such as the back end of Zilinsky Road, where there are no fire hydrants, and probably won’t be for a very long time, if ever.

“We can offer that level of protection,” Thoms said. “It gives us operational benefit, and for the property owners and taxpayers within the service, an insurance benefit. That’s the goal and that’s how it operates for us.”

The tanker trucks required for this service are what are being invested in anyway, Thoms said. They are designed for a rural fire service.

“The two vehicles that just came up for the Malaspina Volunteer Fire Department, and the one for Northside, as well as some alterations made to one of the older tankers, allow for the accreditation,” he said.

According to a report that Thoms prepared for the rural services committee, the accreditation is provided when a fire department is able to demonstrate it can shuttle water to a fire scene by way of water tender apparatus in a volume equal to or greater than that of a municipal-type hydrant system. Property owners with an accredited service are eligible for improved property insurance rates similar to those in communities with municipal-type water supply systems.

“We are of the mind that we need to test it and practice it,” Thoms said. “The successes are there in places like Gabriola Island and Abbotsford. We feel it’s something we need to strive for as a fire service to offer that. Anywhere you can drive an apparatus you can deliver this service.”

Stan Gisborne asked about the cost of implementing the system for Malaspina and Northside.

Thoms said testing is required. It is believed that the departments have the right apparatus for the accreditation but there may need to be some additions of equipment, such as a drop tank water reservoir for collecting the water from the tankers.

“If it comes back to needing something significant, of course we are going to have to budget, but we think we are close,” Thoms said.

The recommendation was made by the committee that the regional board adopt the service Thoms outlined.

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