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‘Great news’: Shuswap Emergency Program gets new mobile sprinkler unit for 2023 fire season

This will be the fourth structure protection unit for the region
Two Columbia Shuswap Regional District fire crews stand next to a structure protection unit for a photograph before being deployed to fight wildfires in July 2021. (CSRD photo)

By Barb Brouwer

Special to the Observer

At the Jan. 19 board meeting in Salmon Arm, Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors unanimously supported the purchase of a fourth structure protection unit (SPU) for the Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) to be used during wildfire season.

These mobile sprinkler units can be set up on structures, greatly reducing the chance of fire occurring on and around them.

Derek Sutherland, CSRD team leader of Protective Services, asked the board to approve the purchase of a used unit from Flash Wildfire Services in Alberta for a total cost of $120,000 plus applicable taxes.

In his report to the board, Sutherland explained that during the challenging 2021 wildfire season, all three currently owned units were deployed in the Shuswap.

During 2022 budget deliberations, the SEP Advisory Committee asked staff to consider expanding the program with another unit, and a $200,000 budget for the purchase was approved in the Five-Year Financial Plan.

In late 2022, Flash Wildfire Services approached CSRD staff with a proposal to sell the regional district a unit they built in 2020 and have stationed at the Sterling Fire Department in southern Alberta. The unit is in near new condition but is not complete to B.C. standards.

The purchase price is $120,000 but approximately $30,000 of upgrades and equipment purchasing to complete the unit to CSRD standards is required.

However, Sutherland pointed out, it has most of the equipment needed and will save significant staff time and guard against delayed equipment purchasing due to shortages.

“This falls well below the $200,000 budgeted while saving staff time building a new unit, and will provide a deployable resource for the 2023 Wildfire Season,” Sutherland said in his report.

He pointed out that a new unit would be in the neighbourhood of $165 and subject to supply chain issues.

“We waited for the last one for over six months and this allows us to buy without supply chain issues,” he said. “Also there have been price increases since COVID.”

Sutherland says the $30,000 will be used to change the hoses on all units as provincial requirements have changed.

Responding to questions from directors, Sutherland said the SPUs are maintained and stored in Salmon Arm during the winter. One unit is moved to Revelstoke for training in the spring and then goes to Golden for the summer. He said if there is a fire issue, one of the Salmon Arm units could easily be moved to Revelstoke.

When asked where the new unit will go, Sutherland said positioning is dynamic throughout wildfire season.

“We have two in Salmon Arm right now, which allows us to be a bit nimble to move them around where they’re needed.”

Salmon Arm Coun. Tim Lavery praised Sutherland and his team for the “incredibly well-managed service.”

“This is great news, thank you.”

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