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Incident Report: September 2013


September 9, 2013
By Brad Bigrigg

Topics

This spring of 2013 had been much cooler and damper than in recent years.

This spring of 2013 had been much cooler and damper than in recent years. Many fire departments in central Ontario had delayed some of their scheduled spring training, including water supply, tanker operations and wildland fire fighting, due to the weather. The number of fire calls over the spring had been considerably lower than usual, as were the number of mutual-aid activations. That changed in mid-May for Springwater Fire and Emergency Services, located north of Barrie, Ont., in Simcoe County.

IncidentReport-photo1 
A fire was believed to have started in the refuse storage area at BFI Canada in Springwater Township, Ont., in May. Lessons learned include the need for a sound knowledge of IMS and the ability to rapidly expand the system in a growing emergency; the willingness to activate mutual aid quickly and build the capacity of the tanker shuttle; and the need to know high-risk properties before an emergency occurs.  Photos by Mark Wanzel, Barrie Examiner


 

On Thursday, May 13, at about 2147 hours, the Barrie Fire Communications Centre received a heat detector activation notification from the alarm company monitoring BFI Canada on the Bertram Industrial Parkway in Springwater Township. The facility is a large waste-transfer site known to the fire service from a fire a number of years ago. A full first alarm consisting of the two closest fire stations was transmitted.

Within five minutes, the first-arriving officer was on the scene and assumed command. The initial report included heavy smoke showing, an explosion at the rear of the building and fire through the roof.

The alarm was upgraded and required a response from the majority of apparatuses and firefighters from Springwater Township.

Command was transferred early in the incident to Deputy Fire Chief Craig Williams. Fire Chief Tony VanDam assumed the operations sector, while other senior officers set up safety, accountability, entry control, staging, rehab and water.

IncidentReport-photo2 
Firefighters man the accountability board during a fire at BFI Canada in Springwater Township, Ont., on May 13. The Simcoe County Mutual-Aid System was activated and additional tankers were deployed from the City of Barrie and the townships of Clearview, Oro-Medonte, Essa and Tiny. More than 75 firefighters were on scene.


 

Firefighters had immediate access to a 30,000-imperial gallon water storage tank located on site. A defensive attack was implemented from the outset. Relay pumping was used on site due to the size of the facility. The supply pumper operated from the storage tank and four large porta-tanks. The supply pumper fed the building sprinkler system and an attack pumper located at the A/B corner of the building. The attack pumper initially fed lines to the rear of the building until they were relocated. Fire-ground operations were hampered by the amount of equipment in the yard until it could be moved away from the building.

When firefighters made access to the building they found a large volume of fire with flames travelling up interior walls, across the roof lines and out bay doors. There were a number of fire walls and fire separations within the building that held through the fire.

Springwater firefighters extended hand lines to ensure that the fire was not able to extend to uninvolved areas of the building, including offices and a large maintenance garage. Heavy equipment was called in to move waste and debris to allow for extinguishment, and to control the water runoff from the site.

A tanker shuttle was activated quickly due to the size of the building, the volume of fire and the amount of fuel (waste) located in the building. The tanker shuttle grew quickly from a five-tanker operation using Springwater’s tankers, to a nine-tanker operation through the activation of the Simcoe County mutual-aid system. Additional tankers were deployed from the City of Barrie and the townships of Clearview, Oro-Medonte, Essa and Tiny. An aerial truck from Essa Township was also requested to support the defensive fire attack. Balanced emergency coverage for Springwater Township was ensured through the county fire co-ordinator, using resources from Clearview and Tiny townships.

More than 150,000 gallons of water were required to suppress the fire. Tanker fill sites were co-ordinated and assigned in three settlement areas in order to ensure that domestic water requirements could still be met.

The fire was benchmarked as under control at 0019 hours with full extinguishment occurring at 1300 hours the following afternoon.

At the height of this fire, 19 apparatuses were assigned along with 75 firefighters.

The fire is believed to have started in the refuse storage area. Damage is estimated at $1.2 million for the property and $350,000 for the contents. The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal was notified and determined that its involvement in the investigation was not required. The Ministry of the Environment was also notified and attended the scene to ensure that runoff was controlled and collected.

There were no firefighter or civilian injuries. The County of Simcoe Paramedic Services provided a paramedic crew and supervisor throughout the incident. Using a mobile command unit, the paramedic crews set up medical monitoring of each firefighter and regularly liaised with the incident commander. The Ontario Provincial Police provided traffic control on Bertram Industrial Parkway, as well as the surrounding county roads.

Lessons learned from this incident include the need for a sound knowledge of IMS and the ability to rapidly expand the system in a growing emergency, the willingness to activate mutual aid quickly and build the capacity of the tanker shuttle, and the need to know high-risk properties before an emergency occurs. There had been a previous fire at this site (under a different owner). Firefighters knew the facility and there was a working preplan for the site.

  
SPRINGWATER_MAP 

On Scene

  • Springwater Township Fire Department
  • Four stations
  • 90 volunteers
  • Full-time chief, deputy, FPO and part-time training officer
  • 536 square kilometres, population of 18,500
  • 17 apparatuses
  • Approximately 500 calls per year



Brad Bigrigg has served in public safety throughout Ontario for almost 35 years, as a police officer, volunteer chief fire officer, assistant fire chief responsible for fire and EMS operations, and emergency manager for the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal. He is currently the assistant fire chief in Orillia, Ont., and an associate instructor for the Ontario Fire College and Emergency Management Ontario. E-mail him at b.bigrigg@sympatico.ca


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