WFPS ramps up fight against wildfires

Additional wildfire apparatus added to the fleet to keep Winnipeg residents safe

WFPS launches the use of two new wildland fire fighting apparatus ahead of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, 2020.
WFPS launches the use of two new wildland fire fighting apparatus ahead of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, 2020.

The weather is warming up, and for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS), this often means an increase in wildland and grass fires.

The WFPS battled 189 wildland fires in 2019, and 228 in 2018 when conditions were extremely dry throughout the spring. These fires caused significant damage to green spaces and required many firefighters to extinguish them and to protect neighbouring properties at-risk.

This year, the WFPS has another tool to use in fighting fires: two new wildland fire apparatus.

Assistant Chief of Fire/Rescue Operations Ihor Holowczynsky notes that wildland fires behave differently than structure fires, spreading over a large area of land making them difficult to fight.

Nicknamed the Bison, the new WFPS apparatus are designed to operate in wildland areas. They are equipped with various pump-and-roll capabilities, one of which lets the crew pump water from a mounted turret while inside the enclosed cab. This offers added protection for firefighters while increasing the speed at which water can be applied to a fire.

“These apparatus are designed for wildland fire suppression. They have great ground clearance with military grade tires so they can traverse wild terrain more easily, which is critical when fighting wildland fires,” said Holowczynsky.

The vehicles join the existing wildland fire complement, which is made up of a Wildland Fire Emergency Response Unit trailer, a tow vehicle, and an all-terrain vehicle (ATV).

While these new apparatus will help firefighters battle wildland fires, it’s imperative that residents be vigilant to help prevent wildland fires altogether.

“Wildfires can start in a grassy area and then quickly spread to nearby homes or structures when the fire throws off sparks or embers,” said Public Education Coordinator Doug Sinclair.

Sinclair added that residents should keep burn barrels as far from structures and trees as possible, and always ensure the barrel is properly vented and screened. Ensure you have a permit from the City of Winnipeg for any fire pits or burn barrels and remember to keep firewood piles away from homes or structures. It’s also important to never dispose of cigarettes out of car windows or while walking on outdoor paths because they can smolder and start a fire.

May 2 is Wildfire Community Awareness Day, organized by the National Fire Protection Association, and Sinclair says it’s a good time to start thinking about wildfire prevention in your own neighbourhood.

“If you see a wildfire or a grass fire, call 911,” says Sinclair. “Remember to have a home escape plan and practice it often so your family can safely escape in the event of a fire. Make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home, and test them monthly.”

Additional safety tips for homeowners can be found in the Government of Manitoba’s FireSmart Manual.

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