Drone footage shows battle to put out fire at Transcona asphalt plant
Fire chief says view from the sky gave crews advantage
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service released dramatic aerial footage Thursday of the fight to keep this week's massive industrial fire at Pounder Emulsions in Transcona under control.
The blaze, which broke out at the asphalt plant around 10 a.m. Monday, sent plumes of thick, black smoke and a toxic stench into the air that led to evacuations and put thousands of under an order to stay indoors.
The footage released Thursday was captured by the WFPS drone, a tool fire chief John Lane said was integral in helping crews keep the blaze — which threatened roughly four million litres of asphalt oil — from spreading.
"It's hard to imagine how we would have done with this without that aerial perspective," Lane said at a media conference Thursday, adding it's the fifth time crews have used the drone since the service picked it up in July.
Watch aerial video of Monday's blaze:
"Each time it's been instrumental in providing really high quality intelligence that we really couldn't have seen in any other way."
Monday's fire broke out at around 10 a.m. in a series of tanks that hold asphalt oil at the plant on Day Street between Gunn and Springfield roads.
Lane said the heart of the fire was contained to six 100,000-litre tanks at the plant, but the location of those tanks — nestled between four larger containers holding three million litres of the flammable liquid — made getting at the blaze both difficult and dangerous.
That's where the drone and Winnipeg police's Air 1 helicopter came in.
With the help of the aerial footage, fire crews called in from the Winnipeg Airports Authority and a Canadian Forces crew from 17 Wing Winnipeg were able to pinpoint the flames with a special foam used to put out liquid fires.
A team effort
Lane said without the help from the WAA, 17 Wing Winnipeg and police, the fire may have turned out much differently.
"We don't have the equipment to do anything that large — which is why we're so grateful to the participation and the instant response of our colleagues," he said.
"We had a long list of players who were just such integral partners in the successful management of this incident."
The fire was brought under control by about 4:30 p.m., though crews from the Springfield Fire and Rescue Service remained on scene to battle hotspots through the night.
Lane credited systems set up after the massive blaze at Speedway International in St. Boniface in 2012 — which produced giant plumes of black smoke and numerous explosions and fireballs — as part of the reason crews were able keep Monday's fire from getting any worse.
He said the fire at the racing fuel plant was the last time the Canadian Forces and WAA helped fight a fire in the city.
"I cannot over-emphasize that the successful outcome of this event came as a result of collaboration, co-operation and having highly skilled and trained personnel," he said.
While the city co-ordinated the firefighting efforts Monday, they've since transferred command of the incident back to the RM of Springfield.
Springfield fire says the investigation is ongoing, and both the cause and an estimate on damage are still pending.