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Comment: June 2013

It was a year ago this month – Thursday, June 14, 2012, in fact – that I had the pleasure of visiting the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Fire Training Complex in Quinte West, Ont.

June 4, 2013
By Laura King


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It was a year ago this month – Thursday, June 14, 2012, in fact – that I had the pleasure of visiting the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Fire Training Complex in Quinte West, Ont.

Deputy Chief Rob Rutter of Prince Edward Fire had been after me for some time to do the short road trip down Highway 401 to see how the community had pulled together to expand the training centre, and to witness the Module A course in action.

The day was fantastic (as Rutter had promised it would be) – sunny and warm but not too hot for the 25 participants who were divided into groups and run through evolutions on several training props and scenarios.

Several things struck me.

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The quality of the instruction: there were three local instructors and four from the Ontario Fire College – all were focused and disciplined but kind and helpful when the students had trouble getting their SCBAs on in the required time, or when they panicked a bit during the search-and-rescue evolution.

The extra sets of hands that materialized from who knows where to set up hoses, act as runners and provide first aid.

The fact that all students were volunteer firefighters who had taken two days off work and had already done 40 hours of pre-course work at home.

There were very young firefighters – one confessed that his balaclava smelled Downy fresh because his mom had washed it (this elicited groans and guffaws and pretty much constant ribbing for the rest of the course) – very new firefighters who hadn’t yet developed the muscle memory necessary to get their SCBA on quickly, efficiently and accurately but were making progress, and some firefighters who had been around for a while but hadn’t yet found time to complete the course.

There was lots of talk around the picnic tables at lunch about who had been to a structure fire and what role each firefighter had played – replacing cylinders or manning hoselines, depending on levels of experience – and it was clear that everyone who was there wanted to be there.

As regular readers know, I had a similar experience in Peace River, Alta., in April, where 43 volunteer firefighters took time off work to participate in Drager’s LiFTT program. Earlier this month in Wolfville, N.S., 500 firefighters – some career but mostly volunteers – spent a weekend training at FDIC Atlantic.

I’m reaching a bit here, but many of those firefighters in Peace River went to Slave Lake two years ago to battle the wildfire that ravaged the town. Now, a Slave Lake mall owner is suing the municipality and the fire department, claiming improper and inadequate firefighting techniques.

Municipalities set the level of fire and emergency service. In most Canadian cities, towns, villages, municipal districts and regions, that means volunteers provide fire protection.

I know I’m preaching to the choir. Whose job is it to get the message to the masses?

 


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