As Alberta’s wildfire situation seems to get worse every day the County of Stettler is steadily progressing with getting a rural fire hall back in operation. A report on the re-opening of the Donalda fire hall was made at the regular council meeting May 10.

Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk gave an update on the status of the Donalda fire hall; readers may recall at previous meetings the fire hall was mothballed, but the Donalda community spoke up recently and voiced interest in having the fire hall fully functional again.

It was noted the Donalda community has committed roughly two dozen volunteers to man the department, enough to operate a rural fire hall properly although it was also observed some of the recruits have no firefighting experience.

Brysiuk stated that the county recently advertised for a platoon chief to serve on a part-time basis in Donalda, and Brysiuk stated after reviewing the resumes the county offered the position to an applicant with a strong list of skills.

Staff noted at the meeting it’s hoped this new platoon chief could be in place as soon as possible which would allow him to meet with recruits for the Donalda fire service and begin developing a training plan for firefighters as well.

Brysiuk stated that it’s not always easy to juggle everyone’s schedules and get them together at the same time and place but that’s a challenge lots of organizations face.

Coun. Justin Stevens asked if there were plans for the new Donalda platoon chief to help out other County of Stettler fire halls. Brysiuk stated the focus right now is for the new platoon chief to get Donalda up and running as there is a lot of work to do there. He noted the Byemoor and Big Valley fire halls are in fine shape.

Reeve Larry Clarke stated, with Donalda planning a lot of serious training, the other fire halls may also have firefighters who could benefit from those training opportunities; Coun. Dave Grover agreed this was a good idea.

Coun. James Nibourg, noting the ongoing wildfire issue across Alberta, asked if the Donalda fire hall would be ready to respond to emergency calls soon. 

Brysiuk stated there is still a lot of work to do for the Donalda fire hall and there is no timeline in place for it’s operation yet, but it’s estimated by summer or autumn the fire hall could respond to emergency calls.

Nibourg followed that up by asking if Donalda was able to respond in any fashion to emergency calls. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated that in the event of a severe situation it may be possible to mobilize some firefighters and equipment, but she also noted the Donalda fire hall has one unit out of action right now after being damaged in April.

Brysiuk was cautious, noting the County of Stettler has to follow occupational health and safety regulations and firefighting can be a dangerous job.

Nibourg asked if it was possible for the County of Stettler to give out “water packs” as gifts to residents who wish to help in fire suppression. Water packs were described as a pump-action backpack with hand nozzle that can spray water on hot spots. 

Cassidy stated for maintenance purposes the county usually keeps equipment in the fire hall.

Coun. Grover asked how the county would distribute these water packs, which it was estimated could cost between $200 and $400 each.

Coun. Stevens stated, from his experience, a good quality fire extinguisher was more effective for fire suppression than those water packs. Nibourg added the water packs seem handy at controlling hot spots during grass fires, and can be used by anybody, which Reeve Clarke agreed with.

Cassidy stated the water pack idea could be run past the county’s fire chiefs to see if they saw some value to it.

Brysiuk also mentioned that Donalda recently had some problems with its water tower, apparently damage caused by ice. Because of that Donalda’s hydrants likely won’t have the pressure needed to fight fires effectively so the county has proposed shuttling water in until the water tower is back to full strength.

Councillors unanimously accepted the report as information.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 25, 2023