As owner of an extensive pipeline system, Trans Mountain takes the risk of wildfire very seriously and we’re prepared for a wide variety of potential wildfire scenarios. We have procedures, training and equipment in place to mitigate the impacts of a wildfire on our facilities should they be threatened.

We also regularly collaborate on training exercises and proactive assessment of wildfire risks with local, state and provincial agencies as well as Indigenous communities.

With wildfire season approaching, we know this concern is front of mind for many in the communities where we operate, and a concern we share, not just as pipeline operators but as friends and neighbours. We spoke with members of our Emergency Management Team following a recent exercise to get answers to a few of the questions we receive at this time of year.

What happens when there’s a wildfire near the pipeline?

If a wildfire is discovered by one of our employees or contractors, they immediately report it to the provincial or state reporting line, and then to the Trans Mountain Control Centre.

If a wildfire moved into the vicinity of one of your facilities, what steps would you take?

There are three main options available to Trans Mountain responders. Deciding which option to use is based on many event-specific variables, including wildfire risk to personnel, facility type and proximity to a wildfire.

  • Monitoring operations – generally this involves confirming the site is secure, evacuating all unnecessary personnel, shutting down site projects and maintenance work not critical to operations, and isolating sections of pipeline/pump station/valve, if necessary.
  • Defensive operations – generally involve protecting pumps, valves and other structures. Defensive operations may be carried out by Trans Mountain staff, third-party contractors, provincial and state forestry resources or a combination thereof, but always are under the supervision of Trans Mountain personnel. Options for defensive operations may include:
    • Perimeter sprinklers
    • Use of fire gel/foam
    • Burying the asset with sand or dirt
    • Request wildfire fighting agencies to lay down fire retardant around facility if air resources are available
  • Offensive operations – an aggressive attack intended to extinguish the wildfire directly adjacent to Trans Mountain facilities. May use offensive tactics to direct the fire away from a critical asset. 

How do you protect your facilities?

The British Columbia government has a FireSmart brochure with recommendations to homeowners for reducing wildfire risk on their property. These recommendations include tree pruning and spacing to make it more difficult for a fire to spread and removing combustible material from around their home.

Trans Mountain follows similar principles for its assets.

Trans Mountain facility sites have large gravelled areas of fire break and adhere to rigorous standards of FireSmart principles to reduce the possibility of a wildfire impacting a Trans Mountain facility. Coupled with the metal construction of facility buildings, these measures help to mitigate risks to our property during the wildfire season. While preventive measures are the best option for reducing the impact of a wildfire, Trans Mountain also maintains several wildfire equipment trailers to help protect our facilities.

What equipment do you have on hand to protect your infrastructure?

Trans Mountain maintains caches of equipment in areas of increased risk. The principal equipment used includes:

  • Structural Protection Units – designed to protect Trans Mountain facilities from an encroaching wildfire. They are equipped with sprinklers which keep the area surrounding the asset wet to reduce the likelihood of ignition, fire resistant foam/gel applicators and large water tanks that can be filled to provide a water source for remote facilities.
  • Wildfire Gel Trailers – designed to provide Trans Mountain responders with a mobile wildfire suppression capability for remote locations. Each trailer contains a water tank, hoses, pumps, foam, gel and other tools.

What should people do if they see a wildfire?

Members of the public are encouraged to report wildfires to their provincial and state authorities.

  • British Columbia – 1.800.663.5555
  • Alberta – 310.3473
  • Washington State – 1.800.562.6010

Wherever possible, it’s important to provide information about the fire when making a call. For example:

  • Size and location of the fire
  • Any people or buildings at risk
  • How quickly it’s spreading
  • What kind of material is burning Color/thickness of the smoke