Staying safe in the heart of Canada’s petrochemical industry

Backed by mutual aid agreement, Sarnia Fire Rescue Services to boost its chemical foam capabilities

When your surrounding geography is dotted with place-names like Petrolia, Oil Springs and Chemical Valley, you know you’re in the industrial heartland.

And for Bryan Van Gaver and his colleagues at Sarnia Fire Rescue Services, that means extra levels of poise and preparation.

Sarnia, Ontario, is the beating heart of Canada’s petrochemical industry. Accordingly, Sarnia Fire Rescue—whose staff of 125 protects a population of 72,000 people in a 63-square-mile area—needs a sharp focus on industrial fire protection, in addition to its residential duties.

“We think of Sarnia as a small town with big-city responsibilities, and that means extra depth and readiness—in terms of training, equipment, and education—for our department,” says Van Gaver, deputy chief of Sarnia Fire Rescue.

“We’ve got an international bridge, an international rail tunnel, oil refineries, chemical plants, and one of the biggest rail yards in Canada,” he says. “Our firefighters are extremely well trained, and our haz-mat (hazardous materials) team is second to none.”

Later this year, Sarnia Fire Rescue expects to receive a new pumper truck with three times the foam capabilities of its other engines. This new pumper truck, being purpose-built in Ocala, Florida, will also be better equipped to battle petrochemical fires—specifically, because of its foam delivery capabilities.

The foam system’s concentration level can be adjusted to industrial or residential applications, it can connect to an external source for on-the-go replenishment, and it can supply master streams rather than one hand line—all of which means a greater immediate supply of critical foam resources until reserves arrive with a member of the Chemical Valley Emergency Coordinating Organization (CVECO).

Whether it’s a car on fire at a gas station, a transportation emergency or an incident at an industrial site, firefighting foam coats the fuel and smothers the flame by cutting off its oxygen supply.

“CVECO is a mutual aid society between municipalities and industrial partners in the area. Everyone lends a hand, whether it’s rail, highway or industrial incidents,” says Van Gaver.

Through our Safe Community program, Enbridge actively supports the first responders who save lives and protect the welfare of people near our projects and operations. Since 2002, we’ve invested $9.3 million in grant money to emergency response organizations across North America—and that includes a recent $10,000 donation to Sarnia Fire Rescue for additional foam capability.

“While we have some additional responsibilities, we see true generosity from members of industry in this region, whether it’s training or equipment,” says Van Gaver.

“Everybody’s always willing to help us out, and we greatly appreciate it.”