Several Manitoba Hydro Emergency Response Crew (ERC) members are helping provincial forest fire fighting efforts in Manitoba’s North as extremely dry conditions increase the risk of wildfires.
“The Province of Manitoba needed more bodies on the ground, and we answered the call quickly,” said James Avison, assistant fire marshal at Manitoba Hydro. “Even embers from a small fire can start another fire two kilometres away and can spread quickly and get out of control, not only threatening our assets, but the lives and property of Manitobans.”
The ERC members are led by the corporation’s Fire Marshal Marc Desaulniers and under direction of the Manitoba Wildfire Service.
ERC members, from generating and converter stations, are being constantly rotated to assist wherever they may be needed. ERC members are regular Manitoba Hydro staff who volunteer for emergency response, not only to protect fellow employees and the facilities they work, but their neighbouring communities.
The first group was first deployed at the Jenpeg Generating Station – with the full support of the Jenpeg ERC and staff – and the nearby community of Whiskey Jack Landing.
Corporate Emergency Response Coordinator Brad Hay said the team performed value protection activities such as setting up protective sprinkler systems to protect facilities at Jenpeg, using their experience and training, before being deployed to the Wabowden area.
“They’re on the move where they’re needed,” Hay said. “We have received nothing but accolades from The Manitoba Wildfire Service about this team. They are volunteering to protect Manitobans and have helped out tremendously.”
Hay said no Manitoba Hydro facilities are currently at risk, but that could change quickly given the dry conditions.
Hot and dry on the horizon
Avison said the template for the deployment of ERC in wildfire fighting efforts is Manitoba’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) model. As part of USAR, Manitoba Hydro supports a team trained in multiple disciplines to operate in a hazardous environment such as searches in a building collapse.
He said the situation facing much of the province right now is similar as nothing is in the forecast other than more hot, dry weather.
“Because of the extreme dry conditions in the province and the higher temperatures, it sets itself up for a possible catastrophic event,” he said. “We’ve already seen it happen this summer in British Columbia with the wildfire that destroyed he town of Lytton.”
See FireView 2021 for the location and status of current wildfires in Manitoba.