By Steve Hubrecht 

[email protected] 

Invermere will get a new fire truck this year.

Last week Invermere councillors agreed to Invermere Fire Chief Jason Roe’s request to buy a new fire engine in 2024 instead of in 2025 as had originally been planned. Councillors were happy to make the move because it will save the district a bundle of money.

The district had budgeted up to $650,000 for the new bush truck fire in 2025. But there is a new version of a Type 3 fire engine available now for $560,000. Savings of that sort are a big deal in the world of Columbia Valley local government spending.

“It’s a new type of engine that is available,” Roe told council. The new Type 3 engine is smaller than the standard Type 3 engine “which allows us to get it into smaller areas,” he explained.

The Type 3 has the capability to respond to structure fires as well as bush fires, said Roe, adding that it can carry twice the water and has a larger pump capacity.

“There is one available now,” said Roe. “It is a bit of a surprise (that it’s available), but we do feel it fits our needs.”

The new Type 3 engine will replace the department’s aging Type 6 engine (a purely bush fire truck). The old Type 6 “is overloaded and unsafe,” outlined Roe, explaining that it has a 25-year-old cab and chassis, a nearly 50-year-old box and pump, exceeds current weight limits and has degraded suspension.

The new Type 3 engine “would significantly enhance our capability to respond to wildland (and) grass fires,” said Roe, adding that “for Invermere, where we encounter small, narrow and steep driveways such as Johnson Road and the Toby Benches, the adoption of a Type 3 engine is particularly prudent. Its compact design ensures safer and quicker access to these types of challenging locations.”

Roe explained that the Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS) is thinking about implementing a separate rating for communities built along the wildland-urban interface. “Proactively, a decision to have a Type 3 engine with greater water carrying capacity may positively influence future insurance rate decisions in Invermere’s favour,” he said.

A member of the public at the March 26 council meeting asked if the new Type 3 fire engine would be light enough to cross Fort Point Bridge (which has restrictions on weight and traffic in place while it awaits upgrading or replacement).

“Unfortunately any firefighting vehicle we purchase, aside from a firefighting commander’s half ton pickup truck, will not be able to use the bridge and will have to go around,” responded Invermere Mayor Al Miller.

The resident noted that the only other way around involves a rail crossing. If a train were to be stopped on the tracks at the crossing when a fire broke out in Fort Point that could mean a potentially very long wait before firefighters arrived on scene at the blaze.

“We’re all worried about that bridge,” agreed the mayor.