Fast action by dispatchers sent aid to Valley tire fire

(Original text may be viewed here.)

21 July 1999:

Susan Corkum-Greek
Lighthouse staff

COUNTY - Lunenburg County fire departments delivered critical aid to Valley firefighters battling a massive tire fire at Cornwallis Park over the weekend.

The effort, organized by Randy Whynacht of Whynacht Security and Survival and duty dispatcher Karen Williams, began just hours after the fire was reported early Saturday morning.

"Cornwallis Park Development Agency is a major client of Whynacht Security," Mr. Whynacht said Monday. "We're (also) affiliated with the Digby dispatch and we do alarm monitoring there so we were aware around 4:30 in the morning that a major fire, thought to be of suspicious origin now, had occurred in the tires."

Just hours later, Mr. Whynacht, who was supposed to be taking the day off, received a panicked call requesting "as much foam as could be found." Firefighters from around 20 Valley departments were "losing ground on the fire," he was told, and were almost out of foam.

"They were requesting lights and siren delivery," he said. "It was that bad."

Immediately, the two dispatchers set about contacting the four departments they actively serve from their centre, namely, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Chester and Chester Basin. They also called Michelin and Cumings' Fire and Safety in Bridgewater and were in the process of putting the word out through South Shore Mutual Aid, when they were contacted by municipal EMO officer Bob Palmer at Bridgewater.

With things well under way by that time, the two men decided that Mr. Palmer would put a page out to Bridgewater area departments via Scotia Business Centre while Whynachts would co-ordinate the delivery.

"We already had direct contact with the fire scene and (didn't want) to get into a bottle neck with the units already there," said Mr. Whynacht. Close to 80 pieces of apparatus, including crash tenders from CFB Greenwood, were already on site.

Mr. Whynacht advised Lunenburg to send its truck, already loaded with what foam it could spare, to Cumings' in Bridgewater. A truck also left from Chester with the contributions of that community, plus those of Chester Basin and Martins River. Bridgewater area departments dropped off at the town fire department, which sent off a couple of trucks.

"All in all, we were able to send up 171 cans of foam of various types," said Mr. Whynacht, "but mostly class A, which was what was requested." There was also a half-full 45-gallon drum. "So that was a pretty good effort," he said.

On Sunday evening, firefighters declared the fire, involving a 30-by-60-metre pile of some 10,000 shredded tires, to be extinguished. However, they continued to monitor the situation through Monday in case of a flare up.

Mr. Whynacht said he thinks the incident will "revolutionize" how recycled tires are stored in the future. While the facility's operator, Nova Tire Recyclers, had constructed earthen berms around the tires - a legal requirement designed to prevent oils, which seep out of tires when they burn, from spreading a blaze - the piles themselves were much higher.

Mr. Whynacht said that basically created a "swimming pool effect" where "water and foam pool up until they reach the top of the berm but you still have burning tires on top."

In future, he believes tire recyclers will not be permitted to pile tires higher than the height of their berms. "Then, in a matter of three or four hours, you can flood (the berm), putting everything under water and that's the end of it," he said.

Mr. Whynacht said he was glad to have been able to help in efforts to extinguish the blaze, and particularly praised his dispatcher, Ms Williams.

"I spent six years as the EMO co-ordinator for the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg and I dealt with some wild things and our centre has been in the hotbed many times, so it's kind of old stuff to me. But she's never seen anything like that.

Ms Williams "kept all the records, typed it all up and got everything ready this morning, so when people started calling with questions, it was all there," he said. "She did a great job."


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