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Low water levels concern Pictou fire chief

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PICTOU – The town’s fire chief is concerned that low water levels leave the town’s fire department in a water crisis.

Paul Janes acknowledged that the department has asked other departments for portatankers in case they need water pumped into them at a fire scene.

“We reached out to Scotsburn and Caribou District (fire departments) for portatankers we can have for the next little while,” he said.

He noted Scotsburn and Caribou District are first to support Pictou in the event of a fire.

Janes raised the issue after the town issued a water conservation order on July 22.

He said it’s worrying that a major fire could consume the remaining water in the tower.

“My concern is that we could use up that water in a very short time, depending on the structure.”

He said the maximum height and volume in the water tower is needed so that there is enough water for consumption and fire fighting. It is also needed for maximum water pressure in hydrants.

Mayor Jim Ryan said the order was required after a “significant water loss from the distribution system at a couple of locations in town.”   

“The water level in the water tower went down to 25 feet which is still plenty of water to fight a typical fire,” he said. “The sources of the water loss have been addressed and the water (level) in the tower is now rising.”

Town staff has been challenged to bring the water toward 40 feet. Warm weather and delays getting the No. 17 well being commissioned have complicated matters.

Slaunwhite reported to council in June that it would be on line by now. However, Ryan noted Nova Scotia Power has been busy erecting power poles to where the new well is located so that it can be connected to the grid.

Ryan also downplayed the low water levels and said there is enough water at the current level. He said Pictou recently supplied water to fight fires in other parts of Pictou County.

“The changes in water thresholds in the tower are communicated to the chief as a proactive measure to insure proper fire suppression coverage throughout the town,” he said. “Although we continue to look at methods to improve our fire protection capabilities, I have complete confidence that our water supply is more than adequate to address the risks within the town and our well trained and dedicated firemen and firewomen are more than capable of making the necessary decisions to keep our residents safe.”