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Trans Mountain field technicians in BC’s southern Interior region recently got a close look at one of the wildfires that have made the summer of 2015 one of the busiest on record for emergency response crews in western Canada.

Early in the afternoon of July 9, 2015, 40-degree temperatures and tinder-dry conditions helped a small brush fire in the North Thompson River region northeast of Kamloops grow into a huge blaze that lit up the sky near the Trans Mountain Pipeline McMurphy Pump Station. As wildland firefighters battled to contain the fire, Trans Mountain workers conducted a series of emergency procedures as detailed in Kinder Morgan Canada’s Emergency Management Program.

As it turned out, the fire was contained on the southeast side of the river and the threat abated— but Trans Mountain workers took nothing for granted as the fire grew and moved closer to the pump station.

We recently connected with Dan Carter, Director of Central Region and Control Centre for Kinder Morgan Canada, to learn about the emergency response plans KMC has in place to deal with natural disaster events along the Trans Mountain Pipeline route.

How did the company first become aware of the possibility that the fire would come close to the station?

One of our field technicians was in the area in the early afternoon. The fire was visible from McMurphy Pump Station. Although it was not an immediate concern, we began monitoring it. The fire was far away and small in size. It was being attended to by helicopters with water buckets and appeared to be under control. Also, the fire was located on the opposite side of the North Thompson River.

When did KMC take an active interest in the movement of the fire?

We took an active interest from the onset. There was no risk whatsoever that it could lead to a spill. However, the fire represented a potential threat to our equipment. When the threat to our equipment increased, we responded. The station was shut down and isolated. It made sense at that point to begin 24-hour on-site monitoring and employment of emergency response measures.

What emergency response steps did KMC take as the forest fire got closer?

The station had been shut down and isolated earlier. Other steps included:

  • An Emergency Response Line conference call was carried out and 24-hour monitoring was implemented.
  • Water trucks were brought in to fill our site containment pond for wetting down the area and to keep exposed equipment and piping cool if required.
  • Other cooling contingencies were available but were not needed. These would include foaming valve vaults and additional protection measures for exposed equipment and piping.

How does an event such as a forest fire fit into emergency response plans for the pipeline system?

Our Emergency Response Plans, procedures and protocols allow us to respond to specific and general emergency situations. The Control Centre has a specific procedure for forest fires occurring near or on the right-of-way. This would include activating our Emergency Response Line system — we gather key internal stakeholders within the company to address the situation, review what has been done so far and determine additional measures to ensure safety of our employees, the public and the environment.

As well, we recently simulated a tank fire situation at Edmonton Terminal in June. This was an Incident Command System exercise which included participation from federal, provincial and local agencies.

What are some possible consequences of a wildfire reaching a pump station such as McMurphy?

If a wildfire situation were to reach the station fencing there would be heat. But we keep the station sites cleared of trees and bushes so the only burning source would be outside of the fence. We would provide additional cooling to exposed areas and remain on-site as long as it was safe to do so.

There is the possibility that power could be interrupted to the station and the surrounding area.

All on-site facilities affected by the forest fire would be assessed and repaired as required before the station could be operated again.

What did the event teach you about KMC’s ability to respond to an emergency?

I’m proud to say we exercised and demonstrated that we have experienced and dedicated employees who understand each situation requires a slightly different response although the basic objectives remain the same: Protection of the public, the employees and the environment. You strive to do the best job you can with these objectives in mind.