“We’re kind of getting tired of all the mess,” said Cache Creek fire chief Tom Moe, three weeks after the flood of May 23, 2015. A wall of mud had pounded against the bay doors of the fire hall and bowed all of them open, allowing mud, water, and debris to sweep through the hall and out the other side, carrying anything on the floor with it.
“We had to retrieve turnout gear from the river,” says Moe, recalling the event and its aftermath. While firefighters were able to wash some of the gear at home, the rest had to be sent out for professional restoration.
The fire trucks were undamaged, but mired in a foot of mud, and it took the combined efforts of Cache Creek and Ashcroft firefighters a good hour to dig them out. “We couldn’t have done it without them [Ashcroft],” says Moe.
When the mud and debris had been cleared away, it was obvious that the building needed extensive repairs and renovations. “There was a lot of work needed in the fire hall to bring it back to pre-flood conditions,” says Cache Creek mayor John Ranta. The entire floor had to be replaced, and the first two feet of drywall on all the walls had to be torn out, with the walls then treated for mould before new insulation was put in and new drywall installed. In order to tear out the drywall, the bathroom fixtures, furnace, hot water tank, and cupboards had to be removed.
The fire hall work was one of the first projects approved under the province’s Disaster Financial Assistance program in July 2015. Moe said then that he anticipated work would take two to three weeks, but the reality was different. “It was a very slow process to get the renovations done; they were only finished a couple of months ago,” he reports. One bookcase still needs replacing, and the doors require painting, but the bulk of the work has been completed, and the fire hall is back in order.
Moe, who is stepping down as fire chief at the end of May, says the overwhelming response to the Fort McMurray fire has brought back memories of what happened in Cache Creek in the aftermath of the flood. “It was good to see everyone come together, and help their neighbours out.”