April 16, 2015, Dryden, Ont. – We call him Ken Dryden, the fire chief in this northern-Ontario town where the Domtar mill looms on the horizon and the Northwest Response Forum wrapped up Thursday afternoon. Ken “Dryden” Kurz is like so many other full-time chiefs of volunteer fire departments: always on call, able to spit out statistics and details about every corner of his community, committed to keeping his people safe. He’s also a life-long resident who still shakes his head about the fact that his Austrian ancestors came this far north from Kentucky because the land was free. Dryden is a snapshot of small-town Canada: 8,000 people but a hub for surrounding communities, so much so that the Walmart expanded – twice. I asked Chief Kurz this morning to show me the risks in his town. View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.firefightingincanada.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriae3bda267fc Domtar, which has two full-time firefighters with whom the Dryden Fire Department work closely. The Ministry of Natural Resources forest fire fighting base where about 400 people work at this time of year, in a complex near the airport; big buildings, no sprinklers. The airport – 10 or so minutes from Dryden’s main fire hall and no internal fire brigade. (Except when the prime minister comes to town and the City of Dryden Fire Service is required to stand by.) Monster homes on Wabigoon Lake – no hydrants, a two-metre drop to the lake from which firefighters draft water; the fire department carries sleds to pull and push equipment up and down, to and from the lake. A Superior Propane facility, smack across the street from a handful of homes. Vulnerable occupancies – well, not officially, but buildings that house people that are . . . vulnerable. Grass fires. Neighbouring Oxdrift and MNR fought one last night. We drove down along the Wabigoon River that opens into the lake. The ice is almost gone but not enough so that water bombers can fill up but today’s sunshine may change that. Sixty volunteer firefighters at two stations. A quint, two pumpers, a rescue, ice-water rescue equipment. A year ago, Dryden’s emergency education officer (a combination emergency management an public-ed position) was cut. Council wants an Office of the Fire Marshal review of fire-protection services. An hour in the work truck with Ken Dryden might be a better idea.Read Laura King's first blog and second blog from the Northwest Response Forum.Follow her on Twitter @FireinCanada, for live coverage of the conference.See a Storify collection of the tweets here.
Dryden, Ont. – Little things. Like how to get inside the Lac-Megantic fire station when the electricity has been cut to the whole town because a massive freight train has blown up and everything is on fire. Like the fact that the only survivors at the Musi-Café were those who had gone outside for a smoke, saw the explosion, and ran for their lives. Like the fact that many of the hoses brought by mutual aid had incompatible couplings. Like the fact that when Lac-Megantic Fire Chief Denis Lauzon finally found enough foam he had to then scramble to get a cheque for $300,000 from municipal officials because the company wanted payment up front – while the better part of the town was burning. Like the woman who ran the Salvation Army food truck and fed more than 1,000 firefighters three meals a day for a month. “We had a problem on Saturday,” Lauzon said Wednesday at the Northwest Response Forum in Dryden, brilliantly interspersing lighter moments among the presentation slides filled with eerie photos of the inferno. “EMS and police were coming and stealing our food! She was our savior!” And like the fact that there were rescues and saves that were never reported. Good work done by lots of people. How Lauzon maintains even a semblance of a sense of humour about the events of July 6, 2013, is remarkable, but it’s clear that it comes from understanding that his firefighters – and others – did everything possible during and after the fire and explosion that killed 47 people. Eighty fire departments helped in the aftermath – from as far away as Gatineau, on the opposite side of the massive province of Quebec. “That’s my mutual aid,” Lauzon said, chuckling and the radius of the encircled fire departments on the onscreen map, but grateful. Six departments came from the United States; Lauzon traded off portable radios for a French/English interpreter for those firefighters. Unified command was used. There was a 3 p.m. meeting every day with dozens of agencies. Manhole covers blew off, becoming “flying saucers,” a problem that was eventually fixed by the use of protective chimneys. Water and air and soil were contaminated by the fuel in those nasty DOT 11 train cars. Lauzon was blunt when I chatted with him yesterday about the US $200-million settlement announced a couple of weeks ago – shaking his head over the fact that only a fraction of the money is destined for the families of the 47 people who died in the explosion. He was also blunt during his presentation, about the stresses of working to change regulations for the transportation of dangerous goods, among other things. “I see it as a moon,” he said. “It has a shiny side and dark side.“The shiny side will work with you and bring ideas to go forward. But the dark side . . . ” I’ll leave it at that.Read Laura King's third blog, or jump back to her first blog from the Northwest Response Forum.Follow her on Twitter @FireinCanada, for live coverage of the conference.See a Storify collection of the tweets here.
Dryden, Ont. – I swear I didn’t know until I was driving here Monday for the Northwest Response Forum that Dryden is in the Central time zone. I’m fairly well-traveled and well-read (and those who know me will tell you that I like to think I know a fair about, well, everything!) so I’m still shaking my head about having missed that crucial detail of Canadiana. I did, however, know that Dryden is the home of NHL defenceman Chris Pronger – as a sign at the entrance to town proclaims – and that Air Ontario flight 1363 crashed in Dryden in 1989, an emergency that killed 21 of 65 passengers and three of four crew members. This week, Dryden and Fire Chief Ken Kurz – along with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Red Cross – host the fourth emergency management conference; first up Tuesday afternoon was Ontario Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek, in his fairly new capacity as head of emergency management. Wieclawek crammed a lot of information into the hour-long presentation, and there’s no question that the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management has its hands full as it integrates the two offices – fire and emergency management – and determines how response agencies and organizations can better collaborate. Collaboration is, obviously, critical to emergency management. Which is why I was hoping for more details from the fire marshal about the status of the province’s review of the incident management system and urban search and rescue teams. Wieclawek said the province is bringing together all kinds of organizations to “re-validate” IMS – “to look at it and see if it’s serving our needs” – Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Transportation, the Salvation Army, paramedic chiefs, police, and armed forces, and fire. One goal of the review is to have experienced commanders available to help manage incidents such as ice storms, tornados and structural collapses, Wieclawek said. “So the next time we have a prolonged event in a municipality we’ll have the incident-support teams that can be available to them to help manage that incident.” Who specifically is involved in the IMS review? Which agency is responsible for rescue in Ontario? Will there be clarification on the role of the Ministry of Labour during a rescue, as recommended in the Elliot Lake inquiry report? Is there a plan for search and rescue teams, or funding? Maybe this forum in Dryden wasn’t the right place to go into this kind of detail given the diverse emergency management audience. The agencies mentioned in the Elliot Lake inquiry report recommendations have until Oct. 15 to respond; clearly there’s work going on but lots to do before that deadline. It has been almost three years since the Algo Centre mall collapsed, 18 months since the inquiry finished and six months since the recommendations were released. I guess we’ll have to wait.Read part 2 of Laura King's blog series from the Northwest Response Forum.Follow her on Twitter @FireinCanada, for live coverage of the conference.See a Storify collection of the tweets here.
Toronto – With apologies to family and friends in Atlantic Canada, it’s spring. Which means that in the next few weeks, those of us who write about or sell to the fire industry are heading northwest, to Dryden, Ont., for an emergency management forum, southwest, to Indianapolis, for FDIC, and back to Toronto for the Ontario chiefs conference and trade show. That’s just the first leg, but after this harsh and dismal winter of everyone’s discontent, during which fire fatalities made headlines far too often, bad hotel food and blisters from walking trade-show floors will be a welcome diversion. This week in Dryden we’ll hear (more) about the mall collapse in Elliot Lake and the response to it, flooding in Fort Frances, the Lac-Megantic disaster, and the tornado in Angus, Ont. We’ll hear about pandemics, panic and weather patterns, wildfires and cross-border co-operation. And we’ll hear from partners such as the Red Cross – a vital agency in the emergency-response chain. I used to think emergency management and incident management were bureaucratic terms used in other places where bad things happen to good people – massive earthquakes in faraway countries that kill thousands, for example. But the list for this week’s Northwest Emergency Response Forum blows up that theory: structural collapse with two fatalities in a former mining town; a train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec’s Eastern Townships; and significant weather events in rural Ontario. These incidents alone involved hundreds of first responders, municipal managers and members of partner agencies. And it’s crucial that those people know how to work together. We know that in Elliot Lake after the Algo Centre mall collapsed in June 2012 there were some communication issues among responding agencies, that there was confusion over rescue versus recovery. We know two responding teams – Toronto’s HUSAR and the OPP’s UCRT – had never trained together. We know the province is reviewing incident management and that in Ontario the Office of the Fire Marshal is now also responsible for emergency management. We know that some of the lessons learned in Elliot Lake were applied in Angus in June 2014 when a tornado ripped roofs and backs off homes in a quiet subdivision: communication was first rate; a scribe was used to take notes; duties were clearly defined. Nothing had changed on paper – by government – but those in charge had read and listened and acted. (I like to think we played a small part – that the lessons learned were applied because the responders read our blanket coverage of the Elliot Lake inquiry online and in our magazine!). I’m looking forward to Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek’s presentation Tuesday called The Changing Face of Emergency Management, to find out where things stand. Will there be clarification on the role of the Ministry of Labour during a rescue, as recommended in the Elliot Lake inquiry report? What’s going on with the provincial incident management system – it is being reviewed but what’s the status of the review and who or which agencies are involved? Is there a plan for search and rescue teams, or funding? The province said in November 2013 – almost a year before the inquiry report was released on Oct. 15, 2014 – that it would review IMS, figure out how the HUSAR and UCRT teams could train together, and improve communication among agencies. The province should be well on its way to making the changes recommended by Commissioner Paul Belanger in the report that was released six months ago. Fire Marshal Wieclawek speaks first thing tomorrow afternoon. I’ll let you know what he says.Read Laura King's blogs part 1 and part 2 from the Northwest Response Forum.
March 23, 2015, Prince Albert, Sask. - On the weekend I had the opportunity to work with some great firefighters from five volunteer departments. These firefighters gave up their weekend to attend leadership and operational training in Carrot River, Sask., and they attended so they could learn and grow as leaders and gain new information to keep firefighters safe. The idea for a weekend training session for paid on-call fire officers was the brainchild of Carrot River Fire Chief Scott Debienne. The intent was to provide cost-effective and targeted leadership/operational training for those going into officer positions (succession planning) and for those already in the officer position in volunteer departments. Why targeted leadership and operational training? Because the vast majority of firefighters and officers serving their communities are volunteers and they have few opportunities to take days away from their livelihoods to become better leaders and learn safe and effective fire-ground management. With the majority of communities in Saskatchewan (and across Canada) being protected by volunteer firefighters, the rationale was to give as much information that we could deliver over a weekend and present more options for the fire-officer toolbox. After a few phone calls to discuss the training weekend, a big step of faith was taken by Chief Debienne to host the event. I say a big step of faith because a program was being created which, to our knowledge, has never been available for volunteer fire officers in Saskatchewan. The $64,000 question was whether firefighters would attend. View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.firefightingincanada.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria9f85cde986 The weekend had a purpose, it had an outline, and a quick call to Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner was made to see if he would be interested in presenting his StopBad seminar for one of the days of the weekend. If you know Chief Schreiner, you know that he is going to jump at the opportunity to get out and spread his message to keep firefighters safe. Several months of work went into developing the weekend material and 2 1/2 days of leadership and operational training was scheduled for the first annual Boot Camp for the Paid on-call Fire Officer. The weekend was a huge success with representation from five departments. The host committee was impressed by the attendance of the deputy chief from the La Pas Fire Department in Manitoba who demonstrated that even chief officers continue on the path of self-development. The agenda was tight, with session 1 starting Friday evening, session 2 all day Saturday, and session 3 all day Sunday. Even with this tight schedule the group finished my leadership session at 4 p.m. on Saturday and immediately donned protective gear and took part in an auto-ex training session provided by instructor Greg Churchman of Rescue Consulting Canada. Greg did an excellent job and there is no doubt that he is passionate about teaching firefighters how to safety perform auto extrication. One of the thrills for me is networking with firefighters and officers from other departments and learning from each other. The weekend was remarkable because of the fact that volunteer firefighters/officers took time away from work and their families to attend a weekend training session. When you get a group of passionate firefighters/officers together all working toward the same goal of self improvement you know good things are going to happen. The first annual Boot Camp for the Paid on-call Fire Officer was a huge success and a big thank-you needs to go to Chief Debienne for spearheading the weekend. I look forward to participating in the 2016 camp. Les Karpluk is the retired fire chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department in Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University’s Fire Administration and Fire Service Leadership programs. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes
Most North American fire departments use adequate fire flows at private dwelling fires. However, this same flow is also used for fires inside large, un-compartmented, high-fuel-load commercial buildings. Commercial buildings require the use of a 2 1/2-inch (65-millimetre) hose, not just for its higher flow capabilities, but also for its stream reach and thermal penetration.
Change. Big change. To better serve you, our readers.
I recently taught a basic rapid-intervention course to a group of seasoned firefighters. The consensus was that rapid-intervention team (RIT) techniques are very physical; even the smallest firefighters are awkward and heavy in full gear. Whether you are initiating self-rescue techniques, dragging in needed equipment or hauling out a downed firefighter, you need to be fit to be effective at RIT rescue.
It is no secret that a firefighter’s line of work is hard on the body. Most firefighters work hard, train hard, and play hard as well. The sheer physicality of the lifestyle many of us in the fire service choose is rewarding, but also brings aches and pains. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the general population will experience back problems at some point in their lives, and you can bet the number among firefighters is even higher. There are, however, effective ways to dodge those debilitating aches and pains.
In our society today about one-third of the total amount of food produced is thrown away. This statistic is even more troubling because roughly 805 million people worldwide are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. Food waste is a huge problem, and that is an understatement. As portion sizes in North America grow, so does food waste. But we can all do a small part to help combat food waste, which supports an overall healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family.
Your mother is upset with us,” my husband told my older daughter as he drove her to school one Monday morning after I had experienced a bit of a meltdown.
What is it about a profession that makes it professional? What qualities do we look for when we define a vocation as having high levels of integrity and trust?
April 14, 2015 – A new app available in Canada makes it easier and faster for firefighters to privately track injury and exposure incidents for future medical use. The Exposure Tracker App, created by Sand Diego-based TrackTrain, is a website and mobile platform that allows firefighters to report and record detailed documentation of injuries as well as smoke, chemical, and communicable disease exposure. The Exposure Tracker App is available for purchase as an individual or as an enterprise. Learn more at www.exposuretrackerapp.com
April 6, 2015 – Following the success of LEADER North America Inc.’s Hasty 2 sensors, the equipment manufacturer has further expanded its Hasty range with version 3 wireless seismic sensors. Specifically designed to be lightweight and mobile, the Hasty search devices are multifunctional, combining a search camera mode with a wireless seismic detection mode to meet the needs of search-and-rescue teams in the field. Learn more at www.leadernorthamerica.com
The Vancouver Airport Authority took delivery of a Pierce-built pumper. Built on an Arrow XT chassis and powered by a 450-hp Cummins ISL9 engine and an Allison 3000 EVS transmission, the truck is equipped with a 1,500-gpm Pierce PUC pump, Husky 12 foam system, a 540-gallon poly water tank, TAK-4 independent front suspension, Will-Burt Night Scan Chief six-inch LED light tower and a Safety Camera system.
The Killaloe-Hagarty-Richards Fire Department, in Ontario, under Chief Bob Gareau, took delivery in February of an Arnprior Fire Trucks-built pumper. Built on an International 7500 SBA 4X4 chassis and powered by an Allison 3500 EVS transmission and a MaxxForce 9 330-hp engine, the truck is equipped with a Hale DSD 900-gpm pump and a 1,500-gallon aluminum water tank.
The Stone Mills Fire Department, in Ontario, under Fire Chief Frank Haylow took delivery in December of an Eastway Emergency Vehicles-built tanker. Built on an International 7400SBA chassis and powered by a Navistar Maxxforce 10 350-hp engine and an Allison 3000 EVS transmission, the truck is equipped with a Hale AP50 PTO driven 420-gpm pump, a 2,500-gallon aluminum water tank, a Newton dump valve with swivel and extension, electric porta-tank storage, Amdor Roll-Up doors, and a Whelen LED emergency light package.
Over the years I have written quite a few columns on leadership styles and the benefits of each style. One style that I have always endorsed and tried to embrace is that of servant leadership.
Teaching in the classroom is necessary for passing on knowledge to firefighters. But chances are that some of your firefighters grumble as they enter the room and cringe at the thought of reliving the educational nightmares of their youth, and for good reason.
We can’t help but reflect on our careers, the adventures we have enjoyed and how we have been privileged to serve our communities.
Public safety is paramount in our business. Indeed, public safety is not just for the public, it also includes safety for those who provide emergency services to the public.
It is absolutely amazing that we are in our fourth year of writing these joint columns for Fire Fighting in Canada.
You lead as you are. I learned this adage from a dear friend and mentor of mine – retired Cambridge, Ont., fire chief Terry Allen.
Fire Fighting in Canada editor Laura King sat down with Volunteer Vision columnists Tom DeSorcy, the fire chief in Hope, B.C., and Vince MacKenzie, the chief in Grand Fall-Windsor, N.L., to get a coast-to-coast perspective on the Canadian fire service.
Three Breast Friends put one foot in front of the other and set off on an adventure they never expected.
How do we help every member of the fire service educate the public about fire safety?
Earlier this year, the National Geographic channel aired a six-part documentary, titled Inside Combat Rescue.
Being in the fire service seems to imply to others that we are tough and armour plated.
Ontario Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek outlined to fire chiefs on Tuesday the details of proposed changes to the Ontario Fire Code that focus on fire prevention in homes for seniors and some other vulnerable Ontarians. See story below. Photo by Laura King
It’s a little-known fact that on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire there was another huge fire the United States: a fire burned so out of control in Peshtigo, Wis., on Oct. 8, 1871, that 2,500 people died
A strategic partnership has emerged in British Columbia with the intent to reduce fire injuries and fatalities among at-risk populations.
As I wrote this in late November, all thoughts were on the approaching Christmas season and fire departments were focused on holiday safety.
This past summer I watched more of the Olympics than I ever have before.
The number of fires and break-ins in an at-risk neighbourhood in Surrey, B.C., dropped significantly after a one-day education and safety blitz conducted by firefighters and RCMP officers.
I’ve been intrigued by the story of Hélène Campbell, a double-lung transplant recipient. Campbell, suffering idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, made headlines after appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show a few months ago.
I’ve been writing for this publication for more than a year now and my focus has been to get firefighters
In the January issue of Canadian Firefighter, I wrote about the Dash-Away – an innovative tool designed by a Sundre, Alta., firefighter to help mitigate issues in extrication, particularly in frontal offset collisions. I have since heard from readers asking why frontal offset crashes are so deadly. Most rescuers will have responded to a frontal offset collision. It’s important we, as rescuers, understand what the industry is doing to address the danger of these crashes.
You’re registered and ready to go to your first firefighter conference – maybe FDIC in Indianapolis this month, one of the training sessions profiled on pages 16 to 19, or your first provincial conference for fire officers. How do you get the most out of three or four days of classroom or hands-on training, enjoy the social opportunities (without overdoing it!) and manage to remember what you’ve learned?
On April 10, 2013, at about 9 a.m., I stood in the frozen mud at the fire training ground in Peace River, Alta., waiting to be fit tested and watching lead instructors Lance Bushie and Rodney Schmidt prepare for evolutions in fire behiaviour and rollover – many, many evolutions.
Chainsaws used in the fire service for ventilation are much more powerful than the average home-use chainsaw; the engines are bigger, the chains have large, wide teeth that are designed to chew through a range of materials, and the units are larger and heavier overall. Most firefighters rarely use chainsaws, and many are first introduced to these pieces of equipment during courses at entry-level fire academies.
One of the more well-known drills in rapid-intervention team (RIT) training is the Denver drill. This drill is very physically demanding as it involves two RIT firefighters working to rescue a downed firefighter in a very small space. The drill was developed in Denver after the death of firefighter Mark Langvardt.
An apparatus driver helps to set the tone of a rescue or fire-ground operation. How the driver positions the apparatus at a scene is crucial to a successful fire-ground operation or motor-vehicle rescue.
British Columbia has changed its minimum standards of training required for fire-services personnel. In September, the Office of the Fire Commissioner implemented the Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook. (You can download the 22-page playbook at www.embc.gov.bc.ca/ofc)
Firefighters sometimes deal with emergencies involving unpredictable and possibly dangerous participants. This is especially true for members of rural departments who are more likely than their urban counterparts to respond to calls involving farm animals. These incidents can test both the skills and the wit of even veteran firefighters.
Vaughan Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) was the first department in Ontario to have all its firefighters certified to the province’s firefighter curriculum after the program was introduced in 1993. Now that Ontario has transitioned to NFPA professional qualifications, Vaughan has become the first career department in which all firefighters are certified in NFPA 1006 core competencies for technical rescue – all 300 of them.
You cannot mention the word communication today without a focus on social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (and the list goes on) are playing greater roles in our lives. In the past we relied on mainstream media to report the news and inform us of events. Today everyone with an electronic device is photographer, reporter, complainer, and helper. But the public can be a valued communicator too, especially during an emergency.
There are many tools synonymous with the professions they serve. Think of firefighters and we think of everything from helmets and trucks to ladders and hoses.
Fire departments all have jurisdictions – areas that we cover and in which we provide protective services.
Firefighters strive to provide good customer service: that means treating others the way we would like to be treated – going above and beyond whenever possible and surprising people who don’t expect our do-onto-others attitude.
Volunteer firefighters who last a long time in the fire service can certainly gain a vast perspective on many aspects of life.
Social media can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Say the wrong thing, post the wrong picture and you have more than egg on your face.
I have a couple of pet peeves when it comes to the designation of Canadian fire services as professional or volunteer.
As one generation gives way to the next, so does the makeup of our fire departments.
The past summer seems to have been rife with disaster and conflagrations. Newscasts and social media sites were filled with details of events and suffering, with floods in Alberta, forest fires in every province from British Columbia to Newfoundland, and the tragedy in Lac-Megantic, Que.
Fire Department Instructors CourseMon Apr 20, 2015
Partners in PreventionTue Apr 28, 2015
FFIC/OAFC provincial golf tournamentFri May 01, 2015
Ladders UpSat May 02, 2015
OAFC annual conference and trade showSat May 02, 2015 @ 8:00am - 05:00pm