Ferry dock fire hydrants untested for two years

Shutterstock

SOUTH BAYMOUTH—The Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC)’s fire hydrants in South Baymouth have not been tested to be in working order for two years, according to a report from Tehkummah fire chief Jeff Wilson presented to the township’s council last week.

“We did a smoke alarm program last fall and were in the building checking the alarms,” said Mr. Wilson, noting that deputy fire chief John Greenway had been conducting the inspection. “The person on duty (working at the ferry dock) felt it would have been at least two years since the fire hydrants had been tested.”

OSTC maintains a small network of fire hydrants at the site at its ferry dock and staging area that work on a separate pump and pipe network from the municipal water supply and the town’s fire hydrants. The Expositor counted four hydrants based on available online imagery from October 2012 and August 2018. The South Baymouth municipal fire hydrants are not impacted by the OSTC hydrants being out of service.

Mr. Wilson said that just because the hydrants have not been tested, it does not necessarily mean that they are not in working order. However, they cannot be relied upon in an emergency because hooking up to a non-functional hydrant would result in the loss of precious firefighting time.

Because of this consideration, the non-tested hydrants must be bagged and marked as out-of-service or otherwise be brought up to operating condition with haste.

Susan Schrempf, president and CEO of OSTC, said her company is still talking with the Tehkummah fire department to determine the best path forward.

“If they’re of use to the fire department, we’d be agreeable to put them back into service to meet needs. We’re not trained and can’t use them ourselves, and we don’t have the appropriate equipment to use them—we are not the firefighters. We’re still in discussion but are agreeable to make them serviceable,” she said.

Ms. Schrempf noted that the fire hydrants had never been used to fight a fire in the roughly 40 years since their installation, but they did receive routine flushing every year.

“When the water system changed from us to the municipality, it sort of fell off everyone’s radar. It’s a matter of returning to get that process back in place,” she said.

Mr. Wilson noted that Tobermory used to host OSTC fire hydrants on a separate system, but has since converted those to run on the municipal water supply alongside its other fire hydrants. He is looking into finding more information about how the process worked in Tobermory to determine whether amalgamating the two systems would make sense on the Island.

One difference in the existing systems is indicated in the colours of the hydrants—the municipal fire hydrants are painted red, reflecting a lower pressure rating than those of the OSTC. If converted to municipal water, those would have to be repainted to reflect an accurate pressure rating.

Mr. Wilson said there are no significant challenges to fighting fires without having the OSTC hydrants in service. The nearest municipal hydrant is less than 50 metres away from the hydrant at the ferry terminal and he said there was another municipal hydrant next to the Pierside restaurant.

One outstanding issue he mentioned was the OSTC pump control was located inside the ferry terminal and could only be switched on by a specially trained employee. He was hoping that there could be a way of the fire department being able to switch on the pump on its own, for the times when no trained employees are present at the terminal building.

When the ferry starts running on Friday, Mr. Wilson said OSTC vice-president Stephen Shaw will be making the trip to South Baymouth to meet with the fire chief and deputy chief about the next steps forward. For now, the fire department is aware of the out-of-service hydrants and will have to plan to avoid their use for the near future.