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Corner Brook Fire Department says bypassing hydrant was pre-planned strategy

The two people who were inside this home on Walbourne's Road in Corner Brook escaped after a fire broke out at around 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning.
The two people who were inside this home on Walbourne's Road in Corner Brook escaped after a fire broke out at around 2:45 a.m. Sunday Oct. 27, 2019. - Gary Kean
CORNER BROOK, N.L. —

It posed challenging circumstances, but Craig Harnum is satisfied a house fire on Walbourne's Road in Corner Brook last week was handled properly.

The Corner Brook Fire Department deputy chief wasn't at the fire scene but was debriefed by the fire officer in charge.

The fire, reported about 2:45 a.m. Oct. 27, resulted in major smoke and fire damage which left a family homeless.

The house was located on the upper stretch of a long, steep hill. The nearest hydrant was about 650 feet away, which Harnum said is not a terribly long distance.

However, based on a fire and risk assessment, the officer-in-charge decided to shuttle water to the scene instead.

Based on firefighter training, Harnum said the department has three options when fighting a fire at a hilly location such as this one.

The first option is the water shuttle they decided to use. A second option is to locate a truck at the hydrant at the hill's base to pump water up the steep incline. The third option is using a portable tank system.

At the fire scene on Walbourne's Road, Harnum said the fire department arrived carrying 1,500 gallons of water and used it to stop the fire from progressing. He noted the responding firefighters were confident they had it under control, but not out entirely, in seven to 10 minutes.

“The building was still standing, there were no injuries to anyone involved, so I think we can say we won that battle.”
-Craig Harnum

Harnum said the next step was to maintain fire suppression, using a supply of water that met the demands of the situation.

While firefighters passed the nearest hydrant to refill their trucks, Harnum said there was a good reason for doing so. Another hydrant nearby had the capacity to pump water into the truck more quickly.

“It wasn’t because a particular hydrant wasn’t working, it’s just because of pre-incident planning and deciding what was the best," he said. "The fire officer knew he had to fill his trucks quickly and simply went to a faster water supply.”

He said he can understand the public’s confusion with trucks passing by a fire hydrant, but it’s all about pre-planning.

“At no time did the fire suppression crew lack water to fight the fire,” emphasized Harnum.

The fire department was at the scene for about three and a half hours from start to finish before turning the scene over to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for an investigation into the cause.

As of deadline, the police had yet to confirm the nature or the cause of the fire.

Harnum said all indications and reports were that firefighters did their job.

“The building was still standing, there were no injuries to anyone involved, so I think we can say we won that battle,” he said.

Police said there were no injuries to the two people who were home at the time, but the interior of the house was destroyed.

Red Cross Canada said emergency lodging, food and clothing arranged by volunteers was provided to the family.


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