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Barrie saves money with temporary training facility

Firefighters with Barrie Fire and Emergency Service in Ontario will soon be training with live fire – at home.

The City of Barrie council approved in January a five-year lease of land owned by Innisfil Hydro to be used as a temporary training site for Barrie’s 144 firefighters, at a cost of about $7,500 a year.

That price tag, Barrie Deputy Chief Bill Boyes says, is a fraction of what the department forks out each year in overtime and rental rates to send its firefighters to training centres elsewhere.

“As soon as we train outside, there are huge costs just to organize a day of training for us,” Boyes said. “We figure it’s around $10,000 in overtime just for the staff; plus we have to rent the facility, which is $1,000 to $2,500 a day.”

Cost aside, the department’s decision to build a temporary training facility stems from a coroner’s inquest into the 2002 death of Barrie firefighter Bill Wilkins. The inquest recommended more live-fire training opportunities for firefighters across the province.

“From fire fighting to technical rescue to hazmat, we just need somewhere that’s close so that we can do it. This will make it easy to get firefighters there on a regular basis and cycle crews through,” Boyes said.

Barrie Fire plans to purchase portable training props for its temporary site, such as sea containers stacked and used for live-fire exercises, as well as trench rescue equipment; many of these will eventually complement a permanent training facility, which is planned for construction in the next five to seven years.

Firefighters from neighbouring department Innisfil Fire and Rescue Service will also have access to the temporary training site 20 days of the year.

“It’s huge for us,” said Innisfil Chief Jon Pegg on behalf of Innisfil’s 17 full-time and 96 volunteer firefighters. “Like everybody in the fire service, it’s tough to find live-fire training time so the fact that we have it in our own back yard is fantastic.”

Barrie Fire also plans to rent the facility out to neighbouring departments in Simcoe County.

While the department originally hoped to include a driving track on the temporary site, a condition of the lease was that the land be returned back to the hydro company as close as possible to its original state.

The temporary site is expected to be operational for a number of training activities by the summer.

March 3, 2015
By Maria Church
Barrie Fire and Emergency Service spends thousands in overtime and rental fees to train its firefighters in centres such as CFB Borden

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