Fire Fighting in Canada

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Comment: November 2016

Walking the floor at the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) trade show in May I came upon a Pierce Ascendant 107-foot, single-axle aerial destined for my home town, Oakville, Ont.

November 2, 2016 
By Laura King

The ladder was partially extended, horizontally, and it was quite a sight among the dozens of apparatuses featured at the show, most of them flanked by proud fire chiefs showing off their municipalities’ acquisitions.

I had seen the Ascendant at the Pierce booth in Indianapolis during the Fire Department Instructor Conference in April, and had been briefed about its attributes.

When I moved to Oakville in 1998 the population was 150,000 and it was a quaint community, close enough to Toronto to be convenient but far enough away from the rat race.

Today, there are 30,000 more residents in my town, many of them squeezed into horrifically over-priced, high-density housing in what used to be a quiet community.


The new aerial is housed at Station 4, in an established, spacious, well-planned neighbourhood built in the late 1980s. But Station 4 also serves a new development dotted with townhomes that are fronted by shallow, boulevard-free yards, backed by narrow laneways, and seemingly squished onto the smallest possible plots of land.

Which means manoeuvrability of the aerial responding to the townhouse fire is a key consideration, according to firefighter/driver Myra Coleman, who obliged an editor on deadline and, with the blessing of an understanding deputy chief, brought the truck and its crew – under the supervision of Capt. Glen Carson – to a photo shoot in one such newly constructed neighbourhood.

Coleman, who, with considerable skill guided the 40-foot apparatus through the streets and around the tight turns, praised the truck’s performance.

Chief Brian Durden told me at the OFAC trade show the town needed the truck for the developments in the north end of town; indeed, a fire two weeks before the early-October photo shoot in a nearby neighbourhood destroyed one townhome and damaged two others.

The point is that fire-truck manufacturers are responding to the needs of their clients. Municipalities need tax revenue from new developments; builders want the biggest bang for their bucks – on the smallest possible parcels of land, or so it seems; and councils that set the level of service need to provide (fund) the proper tools for their firefighters to safely and efficiently do their jobs.

That manufacturers are building single-axle aerials, offering enhanced safety systems and ergonomic equipment is simply good customer service. Which, in turn, allows fire departments to serve Mrs. Smith.

Fire-truck makers sell about 600 apparatuses a year in Canada. Selling trucks is their business. Good customer service is simply good business.

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