The Hornby Island Fire Rescue tests their water supply. The shuttles draw water from various locations throughout the island, and deposit the water into the portable “lakes” shown in the picture, providing firefighters with a continual supply of water when attending a scene. Photo supplied.

Hornby Island fire department receives additional protection accreditation

Hornby Island homeowners received some welcome news from their fire department Wednesday morning.

The Comox Valley Regional District posted a press release, advising that the Hornby Island Fire Rescue (HIFR) has successfully passed the Superior Tanker Shuttle Service insurance accreditation. This gives HIFR the capability to supply with their trucks and water sources the same amount of water as a fire hydrant.

With this accreditation, residential property owners on the island may be entitled to discounts on the fire portion premium of their residential policy.

“There are three rates – ‘hydrant protected,’ ‘fire hall protected,’ so you are within a certain distance from the fire hall, or ‘unprotected’… so if you have the shuttle tanker coverage through the volunteer fire department, you are eligible for a lower rating on your base insurance,” said Michaela Pitt, of First Insurance in Courtenay. “You won’t get ’hydrant,‘ but you will get somewhere in between, because it is still not a hydrant.”

What that lower rating is would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“There are too many factors [to pre-determine rates],” said Pitt. “Some insurance companies may still have old school, where they aren’t doing algorithms. But any of the big ones are now doing algorithms, so it’s impossible to say beforehand exactly what the discount would be.”

“The requirements for this accreditation are stringent and verify that Hornby Island Fire Rescue is committed to maintaining a high standard of organization and training,” said James Bast, Comox Valley Regional District’s Manager of Fire Services.

Hornby Island Fire Rescue Chief Doug Chinnery said this accreditation has been in the works for nearly a decade.

“We have been working on this project for about 10 years,” he said. “We did a bunch of mapping and analysis to determine we needed a second water tanker. We knew that with our old fire hall we couldn’t house a second tanker so this kind of dovetailed with the new fire hall.”

“We went through hundreds of hours of planning and practice and training with our new water tender and our old one, and got it to the point that we were able to move basically what amounts to 200 gallons of water a minute for two hours.”

The fire department has identified various different water sources throughout the island (in addition to the ocean) to ensure there is an accessible water source no matter where a fire might occur.

Those water sources are where the shuttle trucks will draw water from, when the need arises. The shuttles bring the water to the location where the fire is being fought, and deposit the load into a portable holding tank, from which the pumper trucks can draw.

The following video shows a demonstration of a tanker shuttle at work.

“Our ability to move water has just increased immensely,” said Chinnery, who said the practice has already been put into use on Hornby. “When we did the school fire at the end of the summer, we were able to get water on scene way quicker than what we would have been able to do in previous years.”

The HIFR has been using the portable water tanks for a number of years, but has only ever had the one. The fire department now has three portable tanks, and two shuttle trucks.

For more information, visit the Fire Underwriters Survey website at

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