Just before 3 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 10, the Sundre Fire Department received a call reporting the blaze that engulfed the truck, which was parked for the night near the Westview Co-op Cardlock in the southwest industrial part of town.
Fortunately, said Chief Marty Butts, the truck, which was a complete writeoff, did not yet have a trailer connected, as the driver — who ended up calling 911 — was planning to haul out a load the next day, nor was it carrying any dangerous goods.
“As soon as a call like that comes in, that’s my first fear — what’s it carrying?” said Butts.
A second driver had also parked a truck overnight in the same area to get some rest, but was far enough away from the fire. And although the gas station was nearby, there was also a sufficient distance from the fire that it did not pose a threat, he said.
“They were parked off in the parking lot, away from everything.”
The fire started shortly after the driver had briefly warmed up the truck before going back to sleep in his cabin’s bunk. Roused from his slumber by the smell of something burning, he poked his head out from behind the curtains to see smoke billowing from the dash, said Butts.
“That was his rude awakening,” the chief said.
With a water bottle handy, the driver attempted to douse the flames, but the effort was unfortunately in vain as the fire was under the dash. So when that didn’t work out, he said the driver jumped out and promptly called the fire department, later seeking refuge in the other truck with the second driver to stay warm.
“The call came in 2:51 a.m.,” he said, adding volunteer members jumped out of bed to respond.
“Everyone was asleep when the call came in.”
That can be challenging at the best of times, but even more so when temperatures are extremely frigid, he said. Just getting to the fire hall when it’s -30 C can be hard, with members trying to get there as quickly as possible while still giving their own personal vehicles some time to warm up, he said.
“That adds to the response time.”
Even so, the chief said a crew of about half a dozen members was able to muster up a fast response to bring the fire under control.
“We had a good turnout.”
A fire engine was deployed alongside a water tanker, he said.
“It was so cold we didn’t want to connect to a hydrant unless we had to, so we brought a tender with us.”
Although not particularly common, he said such truck fires are certainly not unheard of.
“They happen. We get a small handful in a year,” he said, suspecting that it was an electrical fire.
“They can take off quite quick,” he said, adding a vehicle can sometimes become fully engulfed in a matter of mere minutes.
That might almost sound counterintuitive, he said, as some people tend to think of trucks as being largely made of metal. But there are also plenty of flammable materials including plastics and fabrics in the cab that can quickly catch fire, he said.
“You’d be surprised.”