Off the beaten path: Battling blazes and saving lives

Ontario’s Blandford-Blenheim firefighters target UTV for off-road rescue and suppression capabilities

For rural fire departments, access is everything.

The volunteers with Ontario’s Blandford-Blenheim Fire Department got that not-so-subtle reminder on a snowy spring day two years ago.

“We had a call for a snowmobile accident out in a field. I’m going to say it was a mile off the road, and the snow was probably five feet deep,” recalls Rick Richardson, chief of the Blandford-Blenheim FD, based near Woodstock, ON. “We used my fire chief’s truck in four-wheel drive, but we got about halfway there and then got stuck.

“So our guys, along with the ambulance personnel, ended up pulling the snowmobiler out on a toboggan using manpower,” he adds. “The guys said: ‘We’ve got to do something here, chief.’ ”

And they did—something remarkable, actually. The 16 volunteers at Blandford-Blenheim FD’s Princeton Fire Station, which primarily serves rural farmland, organized a community fundraising campaign that’s collected nearly $30,000, enough to purchase:

  • A Polaris Ranger 6x6 utility task vehicle (UTV);
  • An equipment trailer;
  • A basket for transportation of victims;
  • A fire pump, hose reel and hose, and small tank;
  • A foam system and emergency lights.

The Polaris Ranger 6x6 will allow the Blandford-Blenheim firefighters to deal with grass fires, snowmobile or ATV accidents, or other incidents that require off-road capabilities. Blandford-Blendheim FD has 70 volunteer firefighters in total, with stations in Bright, Drumbo, Plattsville and Princeton.

“I had no money in my budget to finance this,” notes Richardson. “Our Princeton Fire Station volunteers have raised every dollar for this thing. This is smalltown Ontario, so there’s lots of support for projects like these.”

Safety is our No. 1 priority at Enbridge. It’s the very foundation of our business. As part of that commitment, our Safe Community program has donated more than $9.3 million in grants across North America to the emergency responder organizations that keep communities near our pipelines and facilities safe.

Enbridge recently made a $10,000 donation to the Blandford-Blenheim FD toward the purchase of this off-road rescue and fire suppression equipment.

We also stay in touch with emergency responders near our operations through our Public Awareness Program. In 2015, we made 630 visits to municipal officers, first responders, and 9-1-1 dispatchers near our pipelines in Canada to maintain working relationships and review emergency preparedness information.

“We just finished a tabletop exercise with Enbridge and departments from the surrounding townships a couple of weeks ago,” notes Richardson. “We worked together to go over scenarios and responsibilities in case we ever need to respond to a pipeline incident.”