A fire hydrant at the Inverary Resort didn’t work earlier this month when volunteer firefighters arrived at the scene to fight the blaze that destroyed the well-known inn’s main building.
When the Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department arrived at the scene of the June 7 fire, firefighters tried to use a hydrant on resort property, says a letter Chief Darren Macaulay wrote to the provincial regulator.
“This hydrant did not work,” Macaulay says in his June 14 note.
In an interview Tuesday, the chief said his firefighters were able to access another hydrant within about five minutes of discovering the first one was not working.
The outcome would not have been different if the first hydrant had worked, Macaulay said.
“We got water on it as quick as we could,” he said. “It wouldn’t have made any difference.”
Firefighters used several other hydrants and tanker trucks to battle the blaze, Macaulay said.
Flow of information
He acknowledged that it has been difficult over the past few years getting Baddeck to take care of its hydrants. “Put it this way — it is a struggle,” he said.
Macaulay outlined that struggle in his letter to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.
“For years, (Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department) has urged village commissioners to repair and maintain the fire hydrants in Baddeck,” he says in the letter.
In August 2016, the fire department “requested flow information on all hydrants in the village, as well as descriptions of the hydrant maintenance plan.”
Three days later, the village acknowledged the fire department’s request and agreed to provide the information by Oct. 1, 2016, Macaulay says in his letter filed with the regulator.
“In the fall of 2016, following a joint meeting on the hydrant situation, (Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department) followed up with another letter, reiterating concerns around hydrant maintenance,” the chief says. “This letter acknowledged, ‘There are hydrants in Baddeck which are out of commission, a potentially dangerous circumstance.’”
The village responded in writing Nov. 23, 2016, “with a list indicating which hydrants had full flow, limited flow or no flow (the Inverary hydrant was listed as having full flow),” Macaulay says.
“The village also asserted that, according to its own internal procedures, all hydrants are inspected yearly and flushed every three years, with the next flushing scheduled for spring 2017. To date, none of these procedures have been carried out.”
The hydrants aren’t inspected or maintained enough, says the chief.
“Despite our repeated requests, inadequate inspection and maintenance of fire hydrants remain a grave problem,” he says. “The Village of Baddeck has failed to ensure proper water flow of hydrants, putting the public at risk. Please advise us on next steps to ensure that the Village of Baddeck properly maintains all fire hydrants.”
Testing, timing, and consulting
In a response dated June 20, Brian Morrison, the village’s chairman, says the commission met with fire department representatives the day previous.
“We wish we had been given the opportunity to meet with the (Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department) prior to them sending the letter in question,” Morrison says. “The village is addressing all the fire department’s concerns.”
He included a list of recommendations agreed to by both parties.
Those include putting a plan in place to have village-owned hydrants tested and maintained.
“The inspections of these hydrants will be done jointly, with a public works employee and a representative of the (Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department),” says the list of recommendations, also penned by Morrison.
The volunteer department will get a copy of the inspection results, he says.
“A public works employee will be available during all structural fires, in the event a service needs to be shut off,” Morrison says.
Another recommendation is that all organizations involved during the Inverary Inn fire will get together “to discuss the events of that night,” he says.
The village will be requesting a meeting with Lyle Donovan, Victoria County’s emergency management co-ordinator, “to discuss the roles and responsibilities of each organization, when faced with an event, such as the fire at the Inverary Inn,” Morrison says.
The village is making an arrangement for a third party “to inspect the hydrant in question from the night of the fire,” he says. “The village will contact the (Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department) when this will be done, and ask that a representative from the (Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department) be in attendance for the inspection.”
Inverary Inn owner Scott MacAulay said Tuesday he’d heard a hydrant wasn’t working on the night of the fire, where as many as 30 guests and staff safely fled the burning building.
“I don’t really know whether it would have made a difference or not,” said MacAulay, who is not a close relation of the fire chief.
“Once it got going, it was going pretty good.”
He’s still waiting for the province’s fire marshal to pinpoint the cause of the blaze.
“Until that happens, we’d just be speculating,” MacAulay said.
He hasn’t been able to put a dollar value on the loss.
“We’re really focusing on our guests and getting the site cleaned up,” MacAulay said.
Business is going well at what remains of the resort, he said.
“They started the cleanup of the main lodge yesterday,” MacAulay said. “And I dare say that by the end of this week, the site will look pretty good.”