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Comment: May 2010

It’s been a long time coming but good things are usually worth the wait.

April 23, 2010  By Laura King

It’s been a long time coming but good things are usually worth the wait.

Beyond Helmets and Hoses, the subject of this month’s cover story on page 14, is a new program to educate and mentor volunteer chief officers in the fire service.

The program – the first of its kind in Canada – is born of two realities:
First, the recognition that administrative skills are as important as to the fire service leadership as fire suppression skills are to first responders at a dwelling blaze. And second, that firefighters moving into leadership and command positions in departments of all sizes need help developing those administrative skills to navigate political bureaucracies, deal with the public, recruit new blood and become effective administrators and advocates for their departments.

The program is a partnership between the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs and provincial chiefs associations. But for it to be a success and change the way the next generation of fire service leaders tackle their jobs, other provincial organizations will need to embrace it.


Customized for Canada from a similar program offered by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the inaugural two-day program debuts this month at the OAFC conference in Toronto and the plan is to offer it five more times in across the country.

The hope is that the program will be successful and other provincial associations will pick it up.

And that, of course, harkens to a familiar theme in these editorials – the need for national, provincial and territorial fire service leaders to be on the same page on issues from education to residential sprinklers.

Beyond Helmets and Hoses – if properly executed and embraced by departments and associations beyond Ontario – represents a shot at advancing fire service education while acting as a unifying catalyst among national, provincial and territorial leaders.

Investing in people is always a good idea. When those people are your leaders, opinion shapers and the faces of the departments in your communities, it really becomes a service imperative.

Chief Brad Bigrigg of Caledon, Ont., one of eight course instructors, says the program is meant to whet the appetites of men and women committed to the fire service for the long term and instil in them a desire for lifelong learning.

Once word of the program starts to spread he hopes it will spread like, well, wildfire and lead to ongoing educational opportunities for fire service leaders.

As part of our goal to bring new names, faces and points of view to the pages of Fire Fighting in Canada, we’ve introduced two new columns this month. Welcome to Ian Crosby, the wellness and fitness co-ordinator for the Calgary Fire Department, whose inaugural column on page 42 explains how to get firefighters to buy in to a health and wellness program. And on page 12, Chief Vince MacKenzie of Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., who wears many other fire service hats, tackles issues from Atlantic Canada in View from the East. If you’re interested in writing a View from the west, Ontario or Quebec let me know at

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