Fire Fighting in Canada

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Stopbad: December 2013

We deliver our many important services in a very urgent work environment.

November 22, 2013 
By Gord Schreiner

We deliver our many important services in a very urgent work environment. When our customers call us, they want us there right now. They do not make appointments for their emergencies. We know that providing quick service can have a positive impact. However, this quickness should not, in any way, compromise the safety of our firefighters or citizens. Our firefighters must understand how they can increase the speed of delivery without compromising safety.

Under no circumstances should a firefighter drive aggressively or offensively to improve the speed of a response. Aggressive driving leads to much higher risk and does not significantly improve response time.

A typical response, along with some time-saving tips, is broken down below. Note: Volunteer firefighters begin at No. 1, while career firefighters begin at No. 3.

1. Preparation at home or work:
Be sure that you are ready to respond to an incident at a moment’s notice. Having the items listed below at the ready can assist in saving time. When these things are not done, an individual’s, and collectively a team’s, response time is greatly increased.

  • Have the appropriate clothing ready.
  • Place your vehicle keys in the same spot all of the time.
  • Keep your pager close at hand so you hear the call.
  • Back your vehicle into your driveway.
  • Prepare your vehicle in cold weather (for example, have a heated and covered windshield).

Firefighters can easily save one to two minutes just by getting out of their houses or workplaces more quickly.

2. Responding to the fire station in your vehicle:
Safe and defensive driving is the only way to drive. You are no good to your department if you are involved in an accident on the way to a call. In fact, you could greatly impact the department’s ability to deliver important services to its customers as you will not arrive at the station and the department may have to respond to assist you. Knowing the best driving route to the station at certain times of the day is one way to get there more quickly. Speeding to the station is not only illegal but also very dangerous. Firefighters found to be speeding or driving aggressively are subject to discipline.

3. Dressing in your PPE at the fire station:
You can save time by ensuring you have put your PPE away properly after a call and that you have all of your PPE ready to use. You can save additional time by ensuring that you can quickly don your PPE.

4. Responding in the fire apparatus:
Again, safe and defensive driving is the only way to go – 100 per cent of the time. Know where you are going and plan your route to save time. For drivers and officers, a quick check of the map can make a big difference. Do not drive aggressively to save time. It has been proven that little time is actually saved by speeding or driving aggressively, while the risk of a collision is greatly increased. Firefighters can
easily save one to two minutes just by knowing where they are going and planning the best route to get there.

5. Doing all the things correctly once you arrive at the scene:
This is where significant time can be saved. If you are able to quickly and properly perform the important fire-ground tasks required, you will be much more efficient. This is where your training will really kick in. How quickly can you don your SCBA, pull a pre-connect or throw up a ladder to rescue a young child? All these skills need to be practised, and practised again. One stumble here can really cost a lot of time and maybe even a life. Firefighters can easily save one to two minutes by ensuring they are well trained.

When you add all this up, you will find that you can save between four and eight minutes without speeding or driving aggressively. It really is a no-brainer!

Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is a full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C., where he also manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. He is a structural protection specialist with the Office of the Fire Commissioner and worked at the 2010 Winter Olympics as a venue commander. Chief Schreiner also serves as the educational chair for the Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia. In 2010, he was named the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs’ career fire chief of the year and was also presented the Award of Excellence from the Justice Institute of B.C. He has a diploma in fire service leadership and has travelled both nationally and internationally delivering fire service training. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @comoxfire

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