Off-road rescue capabilities save hunters’ lives in northern Alberta

Versatile new light rescue truck is the ‘Swiss army knife’ of Boyle Fire Rescue’s fleet

Considering the timing, it was truly a scenario for giving thanks.

Three northern Alberta hunters, cold and wet after submerging their truck in marshland and trudging five kilometres into the woods, were tracked down and delivered safe and sound on Canada’s Thanksgiving Monday by Boyle Fire Rescue volunteers.

And the Oct. 10 happy ending had everything to do with the northern Alberta fire department’s off-road rescue capabilities.

“The three were 13 kilometers into Crown land and wound have never made it out without assistance,” reflects Robin Mikaelsson, deputy chief with Boyle Fire Rescue, one of Alberta’s last remaining 100-percent volunteer fire departments.

“We found the individuals, they needed our help, and we recovered them before anybody was in any danger. These are the situations we like to see.”

With support from neighboring departments, Boyle Fire Rescue responders trekked deep into the remote northern Alberta woods with vehicles that included a wildland rescue truck (a 2008 Chevrolet 2500 with flat deck and bush skid), an off-road UTV (five-seater 2015 Polaris Ranger), and the department’s newest addition, a purpose-built light rescue truck christened BART (Boyle and Area Rescue Team).

After several hours of searching in the bush amid light flurries and freezing rain, emergency responders found the hunters, who were treated for exposure and released.

Built from the ground up on a modest budget by Boyle’s volunteer firefighters themselves, BART is “the Swiss army knife of our fleet,” and has already proven its chops in the heat of battle.

During the Fort McMurray wildfires this past spring, Boyle Fire Rescue volunteers were using BART to transport thousands of pounds of groceries to evacuation centers when they noticed smoke coming from a wooded area, with a downed power line having started a fire.

“While we were carrying 6,000 pounds of groceries, we put out an acre’s worth of fire with a high-pressure foam fire suppression unit and kept moving,” recalls Mikaelsson. “I’ve never seen another truck that size that has full fire suppression, vehicle extrication, traffic management, and full light rescue capabilities, all in one.”

Industry donations, including several grants from Enbridge’s Safe Community program, have helped equip Boyle Fire Rescue, which is tasked with one of the largest protection areas within Alberta’s Athabasca County.

Our Safe Community program has invested about $9.3 million in North American emergency responder organizations since its inception.

“Enbridge’s Safe Community has been instrumental in enabling us to serve our community,” says Mikaelsson. “These Safe Community grants can be attributed directly to saving lives in our community.”