It’s taken longer than expected but the newest addition to the Killarney-Turtle Mountain Fire Department has been well worth the wait!  The 2021 Brush Truck arrived in Killarney this past Saturday morning, thanks to a Fire Protection Grant through the Province of Manitoba.

Fire Chief, Troy Cuvelier, says there are numerous aspects to this truck that will make their work more efficient as they respond to brush and field fires.  For one, it can maneuver into tight spaces, and it holds 200 U.S. gallons, plus it has a foam injection system.

 “The tank in the back is a high suppression foam, so it takes less water to put out, say a field fire or a particular piece of implement like a baler or a combine,” explains Cuvelier.  “But, our main goal, when we get on scene, is to prevent the spread of fire.  We need to get to the head of the fire, knock that fire out, and this is what this particular unit is for.”

“This is a great asset to our community!  It’s all equipped and ready to go.  We just need to add the water and the foam!”

The larger tanker trucks fill up 750-gallon portable tanks on the edge of a field or tree line with easy access to provide a ready reserve of water to fill the brush truck.  The equipment on the brush truck forces highly pressurized air into the water creating a greater volume of air/water, so firefighters don’t need as much water to extinguish a field fire.

In the 26 years he’s been involved in the department, (Lieutenant for 3 years, Deputy Chief for 10, and Fire chief for the past 5 years) Cuvelier is seeing more calls to brush fires.

Dry conditions certainly increase the risk of a field or brush fire.  However, all it takes is a spark and in the right conditions a fire is well on its way to travel over miles in a hurry.

“The rural fires seem to be growing more,” he explains.  “A lot of the fires on equipment come from a spark, or a lack of maintenance on bearings.  We had an incident where the farmer ran over a stone while swathing and the header on the swather created a spark and started the field on fire.  Carelessness, when people are driving on the road and throw cigarettes out the window.  We have quads out in the back country that have broken mufflers and when they backfire, they’ll emit sparks.  On evenings when there is a lightning show and when it is dry, even if there is a little bit of rain, it will still smolder and then when the wind picks up the next day it’ll cause the fire to spread.”

 “We’ve had a couple of dry years too,” he adds.  “Last year we were down in fire calls but the previous year we had field fires, brush fires, ravines and runways.  We got into a ravine with a bunch of oak trees and branches and with the bigger trucks its hard to get in there because of the weight of them. The trucks are bigger, and you can’t get into tight areas.  This new unit will allow us to get to the head of the fire.”

Booster reels on the unit allow firefighters to drag hoses (much lighter than the forestry hoses) to where they’re needed, then to be reeled back to the truck for transport to a new location, or to drive to the portable tanks to fill up with more water. 

“This brush truck is just all around quicker and gives us more ease of use for the firefighters. We’re very proud to add this new unit to our fleet,” he adds.

Cuvelier attributes the new addition to the hard work and dedication of Chief Administration Officer for the municipality, Karen Patterson.

“Karen worked hard on that,” he shares.  “She had us help to gather the resources, but she was the backbone behind this.  She did a great job!”

Patterson says the purchasing of the new unit is 100% provincially funded through the Fire Protection Grant Program.  “We were awarded $144,924.00 to pay for the truck in full.  The grant application was quite detailed, but I worked together with the fire department.  We did an assessment of our existing equipment and we were able to verify that that was definitely a deficit in our equipment.  So, by doing the data collecting on past fires we were able to show that grass fires were a large percentage of our fire department calls.”

“Not only does this unit put out the grass fires quickly, but it is also a lot safer for our fire department.  That is key, that is number 1.  Also, if they can fight those fires quicker, then our volunteer firefighters may not need to be out as long.  Obviously, they’re being drawn away from their jobs when they attend a fire,” she adds.

Patterson says the brush truck is the first in a 2-part project, the second stage will be to acquire a new pumper truck, to replace the iconic green 1969 water tanker that they’ve been using since the early ‘70’s.

(photo below l-r: Killarney-Turtle Mountain councillors Janice Smith and Greg Erickson, MLA and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Doyle Piwniuk, Fire Chief Troy Cuvelier and Deputy Chief Sean Phillips)