Fire departments from around Queens County and western Lunenburg County, nine in total, were at the airport to practice hauling water in rural areas, where the nearest water source can be several kilometres from the scene of a fire.
Mark Sapp, deputy chief for Greenfield and one of the organizers of the event, says the purpose was to get the departments working together and see how they coordinate.
Lunenburg and Queens County use different radio frequencies, which can cause issues when trying to communicate in the field.
“The fire service is not very standardized in terms of equipment and radios, so working together is really the only way you can learn (how to coordinate),” says Sapp.
It was easy to see what he meant when looking at the back of the tanker trucks coming to pick up water. While they all had the same connections, each one had a different configuration.
It wasn’t just about finding the differences between the two counties though. The exercise part came in making sure enough water could be transported to the scene of a large scale fire, such as at Hillsview Acres and Freeman’s Lumber.
“(In rural Nova Scotia) we don’t have the ability to hook onto a hydrant. We need to move water around by truck,” says Sapp.
Sapp says the logistics are difficult. One truck needs to be at the water source, to pump the water into the tankers. At the other end, a pump truck is needed to get the water from the holding tanks down the lines into the attack truck. Depending on how much water you need will determine how many tankers are required.
At the exercise in Greenfield, it took five holding tanks and all of the department’s tanker trucks to keep Liverpool’s ladder truck pressurized during the entire exercise.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of an exercise if everything went right. Complications included a dry hydrant not working correctly, a bridge that could not handle a fully loaded tanker with the water supply on the other side, and radio issues due to the geography.
However Sapp says it is better to find out those issues now and know what to expect, instead of finding out these problems during a real emergency.
Getting water in rural settings is one of hardest things they can do, says Todd Arenburg, a Lieutenant with the Bridgewater Fire Department. But he says by doing exercises like this and figuring out how to shave time off wherever they can, it means all departments will be better prepared when the time comes.