LAC LA BICHE - Two rollovers and an outdoor fire kept Lac La Biche County Fire departments working through the night and for several hours during the day on separate occasions, last week.
Early in the morning on Sept. 15, the Plamondon Fire Station was dispatched to a call 40 km north on Highway 63 to the scene of a tractor-trailer rollover at 2:39 a.m.
Upon arriving at the wreckage, crews learned the tractor-trailer was carrying hazardous sulphur materials that were ignited, said John Kokotilo, the County’s manager of protective services and regional fire chief.
“This was deemed a hazardous materials incident motor vehicle collision due to the commodity being transported – sulphur. There were small spot fires around the material that were mitigated,” he says. It took crews over eight hours to deal with the material that is known to be “very toxic.”
“When sulphur is burned it reacts with the oxygen present in the air... The compound that is formed due to burning is sulphur dioxide. (It’s) very toxic and can cause death and severe irritation of the nose and throat.”
Additionally, at high concentrations, the sulphur dioxide compound created can also cause “pulmonary edema.” Crews were fitted with breathing apparatuses to mitigate the health risk, Kokotilo says, and two of the vehicle occupants were transported to the hospital. As crews worked into the late morning, the section of highway traffic was reduced, he explained.
“The southbound lane was closed and the northbound lane was open to traffic both ways, for the entire time that our crews were there.”
While the cause was undetermined, he says drivers need to be cautious and take rest when need to.
“Be very alert when operating a vehicle, stop and take a rest when you need to.”
Just several hours before on Sept. 14, there was a fire in the Hylo area caused by a “broken fan belt” from a piece of agricultural equipment, “which ignited and sparked the stubble field,” said Kokotilo.
In total, 11 firefighters from several stations were dispatched to the scene that affected five hectares of area that evening.
The crews where on the scene for roughly three hours and “no structures were impacted” and there were no injuries, he explained. Considering many rural farmers are now harvesting, ensuring that equipment is safe is vital to avoid disasters, he explained.
“This is harvest time. All farmers should ensure their equipment is in top working order and also always carry an extinguisher with your piece of equipment.”
Beaver Lake rollover
On Sept. 12, On Twp Rd 661 in the Beaver Lake First Nations area, a semi-truck with an attached trailer of wood chips rolled over after the occupant tried to avoid hitting a deer, said Kokotilo. Fire crews assessed the scene for any issues. The driver was assessed medically by EMS and was cleared.
Traffic was rerouted for several hours as the wood chips were strewn all along the road and while the vehicle was being removed, explained Kokotilo.