It has been a quiet wildfire season in B.C. so far this year, but the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has a new tool available to help protect structures in the event of fire.
Earlier this summer the TNRD took delivery of a new Type II Structural Protection Unit (SPU). This followed a decision by the TNRD board in October 2018 to authorize the purchase of a Type II SPU to a maximum of $160,000. The SPU will be stored at the Pritchard Volunteer Fire Department.
SPUs — also known as Sprinkler Protection Units — are used to protect structures, particularly remote and rural ones, if there is a fire or the threat of one. Sprinklers are deployed to protect flammable infrastructure, and large bladders can be used to provide water in areas where it is not readily available.
The Filmon Report, which was written after the disastrous 2003 wildfire season in B.C., recommended that “Communities and homeowners in the interface should be encouraged to invest in methods of self-protection such as sprinklers.”
The initial plan was to purchase a “turnkey” Type II SPU from a supplier, but the province was in the middle of changing the parameters of what a Type II unit consisted of, and a ready-made unit would have been non-compliant with the new standards.
The TNRD wanted to have the unit ready for the 2019 wildfire season, but realized that waiting for suppliers to adjust to the new parameters and develop a compliant turnkey product for purchase would take too long. Instead, TNRD staff worked with the Office of the Fire Commissioner and the BC Wildfire Service and developed a custom-built Type II SPU that incorporated the new standards as they were developed.
Not only is the new SPU compliant with the new parameters, the TNRD — by building in-house and using local suppliers — was able to bring the project in well under the initial projected cost of $160,000.
Jason Tomlin, the TNRD’s manager of fire protection services, says that the new unit can service up to 25 structures. He adds that while the unit is intended for use within the TNRD, it can be rented back to the province if it is needed elsewhere.
Neill Moroz, who worked for the province for many years doing fire protection, and who built the trailer that houses the unit, says that the TNRD’s SPU is the only one like it in the province.
In addition to the large equipment, the trailer contains “grab and go” sprinkler kits that contain everything a crew member needs, including nozzles, hose, water thieves, valves, screws, and nails. Tomlin explains that having everything in one place saves time, since crew members do not have to assemble the kits from scratch.
He adds that the unit is manned by a five-person crew, and that a two-day training course was held in Pritchard. “And there will be ongoing training through the Office of the Fire Commissioner.”