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Howley’s volunteer fire chief says helping neighbours is in his blood

Howley Fire Chief Derek Murphy checks the gauges and other parts of the pumping station after the pump was repaired and water began flowing through the pump house on Wednesday.
Howley Fire Chief Derek Murphy checks the gauges and other parts of the pumping station after the pump was repaired and water began flowing through the pump house on Wednesday. - Photo by Roxanne Ryland

Dealing with the town’s water crisis had been going on since Monday, but Fire Chief Derek Murphy was already finding it hard to remember what day it was Wednesday morning.

Murphy has been involved with the Howley Volunteer Fire Department for the entire 25 years he has lived in the town and has spent about 20 of those years as the chief.

He is among the many people in town who worked feverishly to provide assistance to Howley’s roughly 200 residents after its water supply went dry earlier this week.

Murphy has never seen a situation like it in his time living in Howley.

“The days have just been running together,” he said during an interview Wednesday morning, just hours before running water service was partially restored later in the day.

The fire department had been making its rounds to every one of the 100 or so properties in Howley with a water tanker truck loaned to the department by local contractor Mike Kelly and Sons. They visited every home and business to make sure residents had enough water to flush their toilets or wash their dishes.

Murphy said it took around three hours to visit every property to see who needed water.

“Howley is not a young town and we have a lot of seniors and some shut-ins,” said Murphy of the situation that led to the town declaring a state of emergency Monday afternoon.

The water was pumped from the lake into the truck’s steel tan and was not meant for consumption. For that, residents had to avail of bottled water stockpiled by the town.

When not delivering water or checking on residents, Murphy and other volunteers like him were seeing how they could help rectify the problem with the water.

The municipal water supply system stopped pumping water late Sunday night.

As the work still continued to address the underlying cause Wednesday morning, Murphy said the town’s residents seemed to understand everything was being done to find the solution.

He said there were still questions and frustrations from some residents, but he was only glad to be able to help them out in their time of need.

“I guess, when you sign up as a volunteer, there has to be something in you that wants to help,” he said.

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