N.W.T. firefighters buy a new truck, drive 2,700 km to get it home

A ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience,’ says fire lieutenant Peter Taylor

Norman Wells Fire Chief Brandon Scott and his lieutenant Peter Taylor stopped for some rest in Slave Lake, Alta., on their way back from picking up their new fire truck in Winnipeg. (Town of Norman Wells/Facebook)

Last week, firefighters in Norman Wells, N.W.T., proved just how far they would go to bring home a new and much-needed truck for their department.

It’s bigger, more powerful and easier to use than the truck they’ve been running for the past 30 years.

The only problem? It was in Winnipeg, thousands of kilometres away.

For Fire Chief Brandon Scott and his lieutenant, Peter Taylor, that left them with just one option: fly out to Winnipeg and take the giant vehicle on a nearly 2,700-kilometer road trip back to the Northwest Territories.

Norman Wells Fire Chief Brandon Scott and his lieutenant Peter Taylor in the cab of their new fire truck. (Town of Norman Wells/Facebook)

“The drive has been great, the weather has been good, so I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Taylor, speaking with CBC Trail’s End host Lawrence Nayally on Friday after the duo pulled into Hay River for the evening.

“It’s certainly something that, as a firefighter, [it’s] probably going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The long trek came after an even longer wait. It takes years for these trucks to be built, so the fire department in Norman Wells has been waiting for this day for two years.

Scott said the trucks are in high demand and there aren’t a lot of providers. As with many other sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic made that backlog worse as well.

A dotted yellow line overlaid on a blue and green map.
The fire truck endured a journey of 2,700 kilometres before reaching the barge that would carry it down the Mackenzie River. (CBC)


“Right now, there’s a minimum of an 18-month wait period from the start of the build till the time you get a truck off the showroom floor,” he explained.

The truck has since made it to Fort Simpson, where it’s set to be loaded onto a barge and carted up the Mackenzie River to its final destination.

Taylor said the most important of all the new features this truck offers is “a lot more water on board” — it can hold half again as much water as the 1,000-gallon truck that’s being retired.

“We’re excited to be able to use it, in a way,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want to have to use it too often, but when the need arises, it’s going to be a great truck to work with.”

Welcome, indeed! After a nearly 2,700-km trek from Winnipeg, the new Norman Wells fire truck has arrived in Fort Simpson, where it will be put on a barge to head up to its new home. (Town of Norman Wells/Facebook)

Scott said the old fire truck won’t be scrapped entirely. Instead, it will be repurposed for other things, most likely for use by the town’s public works crew.

“We plan on giving her a little bit of a ceremony there, for the continued years of service for the community,” he said.