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Comment: Fire fighter safety must be paramount

Fire fighter safety must be paramount

December 7, 2007 
By James Haley

Whether you are affecting a water rescue or working a fire at an illegal grow-op, the safety of fire fighters is paramount. If we don't protect ourselves, how are we going to save lives and protect property?

This month we look at what may be necessary to build and maintain a water-ice rescue program, and what we may encounter at a fire where there may be a clandestine drug lab or
marijuana grow operation.

You just have to type "meth labs emergency responders" into your favourite search engine to get thousands of sites with information on meth labs and their dangers to us. It's scary, but be forewarned, chances are very high that there is a clandestine drug lab somewhere in your coverage area and you'll want to ensure all of your fire fighters know how to react, both in protecting themselves, preserving evidence and doing their job. Incidents where a drug lab or grow-op is suspected need to be treated immediately as a haz-mat incident and need to be treated with the utmost care. Pull back and fight it from the exterior and call for back-up, from police and your haz-mat team.

In a story from the Daily Utah Chronicle earlier this year, it was reported that the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupation and Environmental Health signed a contract with the Utah Labor Commission on Nov. 8 to begin working on finding answers for more than 50 Utah police officers who suffer from medical conditions believed to be related to exposure to drugs in the 1980s and 1990s, specifically methamphetamines. It is designed to look at the incidence of cancers and illnesses in all of Utah's past fire fighters and police officers who were exposed to drug-related chemicals. This only goes to strengthen the argument for always wearing your PPE and SCBA, even in overhaul. There some nasty stuff in those labs. Check out the Trainer's Corner by Ed Brouwer this month and read for yourselves.

Just announced as I was putting this magazine together was the appointment of Niagara Falls Fire Chief Patrick Burke as Fire Marshal of Ontario. We wish him well in his newest challenge, directing the fire services in our nation's largest province. Chosen from among several top candidates in a cross-Canada search, Burke, who also holds a law degree from the University of Windsor, brings to the position 30 years of fire experience, from all sides. He was expected to take over from retiring Bernie Moyle on Dec. 1.

Moyle was appointed to the position in 1990, after a long career with the former City of York Fire Department, and saw many important pieces of legislation become law, including the Fire Prevention and Protection Act 1997 and the new mandatory smoke alarm legislation of this year, among others. Congratulations on a long, fruitful career, Bernie.

Onward to 2007
On behalf of my colleagues and me at Fire Fighting In Canada magazine and Annex Publishing, best wishes for a very merry and safe Christmas for you and yours. We hope the new year brings much happiness and fulfilment for you.

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