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Snowbanks become an obstacle for firefighters

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

February 25, 2011 — Heavy snow that's piling up can become a challenge for firefighters at the rescue scene.

Snow continues to pile up across the city of Moncton
Snow continues to pile up across the city of Moncton

A series of winter storms continue to roll into Atlantic Canada bringing strong winds and heavy snow to the region. That's on top of the heavy accumulations that have already walloped the area this winter.

The city of Moncton in particular has been hit hard with heavy snow and that's causing problems for both residents and city crews. There's a growing concern about exceeding the annual snowfall budget and there's barely any room for additional snow. Growing snowbanks are becoming a risk for drivers and pedestrians due to reduced visibility. The Moncton Fire Department is running into some serious issues as well.

“As we get more snowstorms the banks get higher and it narrows the streets. When we respond to house fires those narrow streets are a challenge for us because we have to place our apparatus in strategic positions and it makes it difficult,” says Don McCabe with the Moncton Fire Department.

Digging out fire hydrants is crucial for a water source
Digging out fire hydrants is crucial for a water source

Although city crews are trying to haul the snow away as fast as they can, the firefighters are sometimes left to dig out.

“The city has it contracted out to widen where the hydrant is but they can't get to them right away so if we get a fire that night we are delayed because we have to shovel out the hydrant,” explains McCabe.

Not only is the shovelling exhausting for the firefighters, trudging through the snow has its own challenges as well. McCabe says crews are sinking in waist deep snowbanks and it takes a lot of energy to pull that weight out.

Authorities say residents can do their share by keeping driveways and walkways clear after each storm slides through.

“Even if they have a porch or a patio area then clean that off because it may be an area where we want to put a ladder to check a second story,” notes McCabe. He adds that any obstacles that would slow them down from entering a building would slow their rescue efforts as well.

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