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Comment: June 2010

I’m writing this in the nation’s capital during the Ottawa FIRE Symposium, an impressive, week-long affair that features world-renowned speakers and incredible science-of-fire workshops put on by the National Research Council, a national treasure if ever there were one.

June 3, 2010
By Laura King


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I’m writing this in the nation’s capital during the Ottawa FIRE Symposium, an impressive, week-long affair that features world-renowned speakers and incredible science-of-fire workshops put on by the National Research Council, a national treasure if ever there were one.

The symposium, pulled together mostly by union muscle and the passion that grew out of a near tragedy, is a direct result of the Workers’ Report on the Forward Avenue fire in Ottawa on Feb. 12, 2007. To quote the dedication at the beginning of the lengthy report: “In the early afternoon of Feb. 12, 2007, the members of No. 11 Station, D Platoon, were called to 187 Forward Ave. for a report of a fire. Within nine minutes of their arrival on scene, five members of 11 D would be fighting for their lives in the performance of their duties. This report is dedicated to ensuring that the injuries and suffering incurred by these five members and that the lessons learned were not
in vain.”

The inaugural symposium wasn’t particularly well known outside Ottawa but it’s one of several educational forums this spring and summer that I’m attending in a continuing effort to better understand the issues challenging the Canadian fire service and meet the leaders who are passionate about tackling those challenges. In April it was FDIC in Indianapolis with dozens of Canadians from Windsor, N.S., to Morinville, Alta.; then the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs convention in Toronto; and FDIC Atlantic early this month, with a remarkable 500 delegates for a weekend of hands-on training in beautiful Wolfville, N.S. We’re off to Edmonton for the Alberta chiefs conference in late June, the Maritime chiefs in July and the Canadian chiefs in September. There’s a new conference this year – the International Conference for Fire & Rescue Executives in Calgary May 30 to June 1 – plus the disaster management conference in Toronto, the 26th annual North American Vehicle Rescue Challenge in Calgary in September and the Canadian Industrial Emergency conference and expo, also in September in Calgary. OK, you get the picture. What’s the point?

Well, with limited travel budgets it seems departments are having a tough time choosing where to send their members. Chiefs of some key metro departments were notably absent from the OAFC conference, which led to musings about whether they were saving their travel dollars for the CAFC in the fall or to attend the new international conference in Calgary. Could all these conferences be too much of a good thing? The Ottawa symposium, FDIC and the extrication challenge are different – they’re not aimed exclusively at chiefs, rather there’s a significant training component meant for front-line firefighters.

But once again it seems that in this business the left hand doesn’t always know what the right hand is doing and some national communication might help to get everyone on the same page about education and training needs. Some have suggested an FDIC-Canada – a massive undertaking but maybe it’s worth discussing.


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