By Cole Parkinson
Last week was windier than southern Albertans are comfortable with.
While the wind seems to be a constant in this portion of the province, last Wednesday saw gusts up to 130 km/h — which caused plenty of damage across Taber and included several trees being ripped from the ground. With havoc happening across the municipality, the Taber Fire Department was busy for several hours as residents required some help.
“Taber Fire Department was called out at 9:34 a.m. (Jan. 13) to deal with some of the situations from the wind,” said Steve Munshaw, Taber fire chief. “The wind initially started blowing over trees into power lines, onto roofs and then also roofs blowing off of homes. Taber Fire Department responded and throughout the day, responded to 26 alarms for different things. From public assists, dealing with hazardous environments and gas leaks and we finished up the majority of the day by about 2:30. We ended up having three trucks, 15 personnel responded and we worked with the Public Works department, Taber police, Taber dispatch, ATCO Gas and Fortis to bring stabilization and normality back into our community.”
While heading into a fire is no small feat, the local firefighters have prepared for those scenarios, while in this situation, Munshaw explained there is no way to fully prepare.
“There’s really no preparation other than having a well-trained organization that knows how to deal with all of the different emergencies that come up. Even as far as going onto the roof of the Palace Hotel and having to take the sign down, as it was hanging and causing a safety concern dangling from a three-storey building. So there really is no training for it, just overall being proficient at their job, and in Taber, we’re so lucky to have that.”
One benefit that allowed the group to get out into the affected areas quickly was the new fire hall — which is in a centralized location in the town. With the large majority of calls coming from the middle of Taber, Munshaw explained how beneficial the new hall’s location is for the firefighters for any type of situation.
“I can’t tell you how amazing that was. You look at the quick response and we were able to leave in just moments of the wind and calls coming in. I didn’t even make it out from my desk to the apparatus to back out before I already had firefighters running into the fire hall responding to calls. Being local, being centralized really supported us. The majority of the calls were in the downtown core.”
As the day finally came to an end, and the wind finally died down to a more normal level, Munshaw looked back at the work put in by the Taber department.
As plenty of volunteers were on call during the entirety of the event, Munshaw pointed to how great of a job the local firefighters put in on a daily basis.
“I can’t thank Taber Fire Department responding members and the whole staff enough. They did an amazing job, they know the job so well, and without them, we wouldn’t have had such success in making sure of the safety and well-being of the community was handled and supported. And a big shoutout to the M.D. fire department for their response to the calls they had to deal with. So many of the farmers and residents of the town and M.D. had to deal with damage to their properties and we wish them all the best. We’re always there, and if they ever need any assistance, don’t hesitate to holler,” he said, while also reflecting on how the community reacted to the blistering wind. “It was a big day and a lot of people had some tragedy in their community. Just hearing more and more coming in, but however we can help as a community and pull together, that is the best we can do. And that’s why Taber is so amazing, it constantly does that. It groups together and rallies as a whole and supports everybody’s needs.”