When lightning struck a steel building on Decker Hutterite Colony Farm, Monday morning, May 8, Miniota Fire department was on first alert. It was a non-injury incident, said Miniota Fire Chief Nick Young, but it put their brand new fire truck to the test.
Young immediately requested help from three other adjacent fire departments.
“We were dispatched at 5:10 a.m. to a shop fire on the colony. Immediately we requested Hamiota, Shoal Lake and Birtle, because we knew it was going to be big.”
With Decker Colony remotely located, these fire departments are almost equidistant from the colony. All four arrived almost simultaneously.
“It is our jurisdiction,” explained Young. “That’s why we were paged first.”
In total, 46 members were on-scene at one time.
“I was the Incident Command, but we had other officers looking after their own departments. They all reported to me as IC.”
As well as the four fire departments on scene, Miniota also called on Russell to bring some breathing air bottles.
From a command perspective, Young said matter-of-factly, “It went fairly well, considering the number of departments and crew there.”
There were no injuries, although several men from the colony were checked in case of smoke inhalation.
“They were scrambling vehicles at the shop before we got there. They got most of it out,” says Young adding, “I guess they’ve got a pretty good crew there.”
The Colony’s only possible fire truck was not a pumper, just a water tanker, and was within the shed.
Wind and a lightning storm started up late Sunday evening. Hitting the building, a bolt of lightning blew out the electrical panel, fusing the wiring, resulting in the fire.
In the 300-foot by 80-foot steel shed, the fire separation wall is what saved the east end of the building, said the fire chief. “That, and the fact of an east wind.”
He said the west half of the shed was a total loss while the east end may be salvageable. “It did breach the fire wall in the attic, but we were able to put it out.”
First fire call
Miniota’s brand new pumper truck was part of the four-department fire fight Monday morning, and it was its first fire call for the vehicle, delivered at the end of March.
“The technology is amazing compared to the 1983 model we had before,” explained Young. “The pump is a lot bigger on it. The foam capability to put with the water is computerized. It makes it very easy to apply foam (fire retardant).”
The new crew cab can also transport more firefighters to the scene.
Miniota also took its older pumper, and a mini pumper, bringing 2,500 gallons of water in total. Water was also pumped from the nearby Arrow River which flows past the end of the colony’s lane. It fed four pump trucks at the scene.
“We pushed the water with a five-volume hose, all the way to the yard, about 1,000 feet. We had Shoal Lake’s biggest pump down there, pushing the water up to us.”
This fire didn’t just test the new truck, but also the system. Incident Command System is a Canada –wide system that all fire departments train on.
“It was a big effort, and it worked pretty well. The command structure that everyone is taught worked well too,” said Young.
It is estimated that the lightning struck at shortly after 3:00 a.m. and wasn’t noticed immediately by the sleeping colony; it was afternoon before the eight-hour fire fight was over.
The Decker Hutterite Colony showed their gratitude to the firefighters as only a colony can. With chicken and sausage on the menu following the hours of work, “they fed us very well,” commented Young.