SUNDRE – Sundre Fire Department members on a mutual assistance call Wednesday escaped unscathed when their unit began to slide back and rolled over an embankment after being forced to stop on the Forestry Trunk Road where two vehicles were blocking both directions of traffic.
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, the crew was responding to a call for mutual aid in Bighorn County.
Travelling south on Highway 40 – also known locally as the Forestry Trunk Road – about eight kilometres south of the Red Deer River crossing along a winding section of the gravel road, the firefighters were “climbing a steep hill when they turned a blind corner and there were two vehicles blocking both the north- and south-bound lanes,” reads a statement issued Thursday by Ross Clews, the fire department’s chief.
To avoid a collision with those vehicles, the crew promptly brought to a controlled and complete stop their one-ton bush truck that was hauling a trailer loaded with a side-by-side as well as assorted backcountry rescue equipment.
However once stopped, the truck and trailer began sliding backwards down the hill and across the road into the east ditch, said Clews.
As the pickup went over the 4.5 metre (15-foot) embankment, the trailer became disconnected and remained on the gravel highway.
“It didn’t leave the road. We spun it around and hooked it onto my command truck and I towed it back to town,” he said, adding the trailer only sustained minor cosmetic damage and otherwise remained operational.
The bush truck was less fortunate.
“It went in backwards and then rolled over sideways; it was a soft roll,” he said, expressing relief that no one was injured as a result.
“The only thing for me: no one got hurt,” he said.
Although the crew escaped unhurt, the level of damage the bush truck sustained was still being assessed when Clews spoke with the Albertan in response to follow-up questions.
“Right now, it can’t be used,” he said, confirming when asked that the department’s overall ability to respond has not been affected and that even without the unit, the Sundre Fire Department remains at full operational capacity.
“We brought our backup unit in and put it in service,” he said.
“We’re not down on being able to service or anything.”
Meanwhile, the unit that rolled back into the ditch has already since been recovered.
“Everything was recovered that night and was back in town before six o’clock last night,” said Clews. “We had pickers come out and lift it out over the embankment, flip it the right way and then haul it back to town.”
When sked, the chief said the crew had been called out to provide mutual assistance.
“We were called for mutual aid with Cremona; it was in Bighorn County,” he said.
“The call came in as a vehicle with a man in it hanging over a cliff, and he was just actually in the ditch. He walked to the RCMP and the RCMP drove him back to Sundre, but it was a Calgary resident,” said Clews.
“He was in need of a tow truck more than a fire department; he was not injured or anything like that.”
The moral of the story is a reminder for all motorists to avoid stopping vehicles along dangerous portions of road with poor visibility in either direction, such as hills and blind corners, especially in winter conditions.
“Watch out for road hazards. If you get hung up on a blind corner in a hazardous area, put out warning signs or something so you’re not increasing the likelihood of making a bad situation worse,” said Clews.