Wind energy developers must now have plans in place to detect and put out fires on wind turbines located in Grey Highlands.
Council approved recommendations by fire chief Rod Leeson that operators of industrial wind turbines install a detection system to alert the municipal fire department and to provide plans to put out the fire in a wind turbine.
The measures must include a 24-hour monitoring service coordinated through the Grey Highlands fire dispatch centre and a comprehensive fire suppression plan that meets the approval of the fire chief.
As well the costs incurred by the municipality directly related to battling and controlling a fire caused by an industrial wind turbine must be fully paid for by the developer.
Speaking in favour of the proposed bylaw, Coun. Stewart Halliday argued that there are some things that the fire code doesn’t cover, which is why a special bylaw is needed. He was referring to protecting property surrounding a wind turbine from fire caused by a burning wind turbine. Municipal fire services don’t have the capability to combat a fire at the top of a 30-storey wind turbine, but can protect surrounding fields and buildings.
Deputy-mayor Paul McQueen argued in favour of early detection and noted that in the case of a fire on an industrial wind turbine on April 2 near Goderich, it was 45 minutes before the local fire department was notified. The fire, which destroyed the top of the turbine, burned itself out within two hours.
A fire that went unreported during a hot dry summer could cause a lot of damage to surrounding farm fields and buildings, said McQueen.
“Our fire department needs to protect what surrounds a wind turbine.”
Coun. Dave Kell, former fire chief of the Grey Highlands Fire Department and 30-year veteran firefighter, called the bylaw another form of singling out wind energy developers with measures that aren’t directed at any other industry.
“It’s just picking on one industry . . . there’s no more fire hazard with (wind turbines) than any other thing. I just don’t agree with it,” he said during Monday’s council meeting.
Kell gave the example of a fire in September 2009 that totally destroyed the Chapman’s Ice Cream plant which he described as the biggest blaze the municipal fire department has faced, yet there were no demands that the town’s largest employer reimburse the municipality.
He said this latest move by council goes beyond Grey Highlands’ recent motion to be an unwilling host for wind energy projects..
But Halliday replied that it’s precisely because not all contingencies are covered in the fire code that sometimes added measures are needed. He gave the example of having to install a 50,000 litre water reservoir at the recently constructed Flesherton library, which is located south of town. Flesherton doesn’t have municipal fire hydrants.
“If you need 50,000 (litre) tank for the Flesherton library, then we need to be thinking about this, he said.
Kell said later the fire code covers property and buildings but not machinery, such as agricultural combines, or big trucks that catch fire while passing through town. The top of the wind turbine he said, is a piece of machinery and not a building.
Leeson said the bylaw would help provide his department with early notice of a fire in a wind turbine and clarifies the role of the owners of the wind turbine and the local fire department.
Monday’s vote directs officials to prepare a bylaw for ratification by council later this summer.
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