Questions remain for residents after Erskine house fire

Issue of Erskine fire hydrant brought before county council

By Emily Jaycox For The Independent

Questions still remain for Richard and Bonita Givens of Erskine after the fire that destroyed their garage and home Jan. 11 was discussed at Stettler County Council’s regular meeting Wednesday, Feb. 13.

When the Stettler Regional Fire Department responded to the call it was found that they could not connect their large hose to the large port on the side of the hydrant in question as the threadings were different.

In Alberta, the two smaller ports are standard, but the large one is not, and sometimes a supplier can send the wrong one, according to Regional Fire Chief Mark Dennis in an interview Feb. 15.

Dennis gave an account of the incident, along with historical data on practices and procedures, response times and other information at the meeting.

Givens says although he appreciates the information, his wife and himself, and the other two members of the Erskine delegation remain unsatisfied.

“We’re just at a loss for how the information applies to our question about the fire hydrant,” Givens said in an interview Feb. 14.

According to Dennis, even if the hydrant in question had been useable, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, as water had already been accessed from the curling rink’s hydrant.

Given says although he acknowledges he isn’t the expert, he respectfully disagrees.

Although he didn’t expect his house to be saved, he feels that the amount of damage to their belongings may have been mitigated if less effort had been focused on the garage.

The fire department did have a fast response time to the fire, says Givens.

The Erskine water servicing project brought water service to the hamlet of Erskine including the school, such as fire hydrants and potable drinking water.

The hamlet previously relied on wells.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated when a municipality receives government funding for a project there is a stipulation to go with the lowest bid.

The hydrants were all inspected by engineers to ensure they were operational and structurally sound, according to Nicki Thorsteinsson, director of communications.

“The thread issue was just one of those things,” said Thorsteinsson.

“Nobody knew they would come with all different threads … it had nothing to do with budget cuts.”

According to Thorsteinsson, the hydrants are currently inspected and flushed twice a year by the environmental services department, through random selection.

“They may not have inspected that hydrant in question.”

Council said all hydrants in Erskine and Bashaw have now been inspected and parts ordered to ensure they are all in working order.

“It really is a pity that it cost us our home to find this all out,” said Givens.

For his own satisfaction, Givens says he wants to know if the hydrant in question was inspected recently.

“I’m not trying to start another fire, I just got through one.”

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