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March 23, 2012 – Lots to catch up on today . . .


First, congratulations to the British Columbia Association of Fire Chiefs for its launch yesterday of what it hopes will become a national smoke-alarm movement.

March 23, 2012 
By Laura King

March 23, 2012 – Lots to catch up on today . . .

First, congratulations to the British Columbia Association of Fire Chiefs for its launch yesterday of what it hopes will become a national smoke-alarm movement.

Many in the fire service have bemoaned – at least for the five years that I’ve been around – the fact that smoke-alarm messages aren’t reaching vulnerable groups, but no one has done much about it.

Until now.

You can read our story about the movement here, and see two of the four videos here and here. (See if you recognize the voice in the fire-department video . . . think Fire Fighting in Canada columnist and former radio host – if you read the bios at the end of our columns you’ll know! We HOPE you do . . . hint, hint)

Nice work!

It’s a big day in Truro, N.S., where the 53rd Canadian Firefighters Curling Championship kicks off today.

Teams practice this afternoon and the round robin starts this evening with a bit of fire-service fanfare.

“Everything gets off to a spectacular start with the aerial ladder draw in front of the Truro fire hall,” said publicity chair Chris Donnachie in an e-mail.

“Two aerial ladder trucks will reach to the sky together and 12 firefighters from local departments will climb up and lock in and fly the 12 provincial flags signifying the position of teams in the curling draw.”

It’s worth noting that the team from the host province is made up of volunteer firefighters from the Truro Volunteer Fire Brigade – skip Dave Williams, third John Congdon, second Shawn Hale and lead Michael Hennessy – the only fully volunteer contingent among the 12 teams.

We’ll keep you posted or you can keep track of the results at

As curlers like to say, rock on (yeah, yeah, we know its corny)!

While I was in Nova Scotia last week for the March Break, I mixed a bit of business with pleasure and visited the North Sydney Fire Department to take some pictures for our training file.

The weather in Nova Scotia last week was pleasant but nothing like the record temperatures here in Ontario, so when I realized I’d be outside shooting an auto ex training session, after the sun went down, I borrowed a winter jacket, dug out some boots, threw on an extra sweater and unearthed my leather gloves.

Still, 45 minutes later I couldn’t feel my fingers, which made taking pictures a bit of a challenge (even with Fire Chief Lloyd MacIntosh’s fabulous Nikon!). A big thanks to the gentleman who lent me his firefighting gloves so I could thaw my digits and resume the photo shoot, and to the 20-plus volunteer firefighters at Tuesday-night training, who endured the blinding flash and were more than accommodating as I stepped over them to get some decent shots!

Chief Lloyd MacIntosh of the North Sydney Fire Department in Cape Breton instructs volunteer firefighters on auto extrication during Tuesday-night training. Photo by Laura King


There are more than 750 volunteer firefighters in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Fire Service, which includes the North Sydney department. Showing up for auto ex training on a frigid Tuesday night after already responding to three grass fires – there was a fourth call during the session – is impressive (although it just occurred to me that Chief MacIntosh had told them I was coming, and maybe they all showed up in hopes of getting their pictures the magazine. Hmm, joke’s on me?).

On the flight home from Nova Scotia Monday night I was waiting for the seatbelt light to go off, which, as frequent fliers know, is the universal signal to put in ear buds, crank up the iPod, pull out the Kobo, laptop or iPad, and ignore fellow passengers.

I was patiently waiting to dive deeply into my e-reader (which, for whatever reason, flight attendants make me turn off for take off and landing despite not having any radio or send/receive features), when the pilot mentioned that the temperature in Toronto was a balmy 20 degrees. I made eye contact with the gentleman beside me on the Air Canada Embraer 190 (more leg room – yay!) and we chuckled. It had been three degrees when I left Sydney an hour or so earlier, and the temperature in Deer Lake, he said, was similar.

Put a Cape Bretoner and a Newfoundlander side by each on a two-hour flight to Toronto and, well, suffice to say that neither the iPod nor the e-reader saw the light of day, and it’s a good thing everyone around us was watching movies, ear buds solidly in place!

Turns out that George House, the gentleman in seat 16-B, from Port Saunders, N.L., is sort of an honourary firefighter. His brother, Darren House, is a volunteer with the Port Saunders Volunteer Fire Department, a vibrant department with 15 members and a fully equipped truck, according to its website (

George House, the frequent flier, owns a trucking business and can’t commit the required time to volunteer firefighting, but he’s a big supporter, participating in and donating prizes to fundraising events and talking up the department to anyone who will listen (or maybe just to the editor of the national fire magazine?)

Anyway, George was telling me about the fire department’s snowmobile poker run (anybody need a fundraising idea?) and how successful it is, and how seriously department members take their training, and the camaraderie, and how well respected Chief Chris Gaslard is among firefighters and townsfolk (there are 876 people in Port Saunders, by the way, and 15 volunteer firefighters – wow!). Indeed, two nearby communities wanted to amalgamate with the Port Saunders department because of its impeccable reputation.

Port Saunders is on the western shore of Newfoundland’s northern peninsula, up a ways from Gros Morne National Park. I’ll be in Newfoundland in July for the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association conference in Gander, and in September for the CAFC in St. John’s. Road trip to Port Saunders, anyone?

There was a great story in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record on Saturday – St. Patrick’s Day – about the Municipality of North Perth, Ont., honouring fallen firefighters Kenneth Rea and Raymond Walter. You’ll remember that Rea and Walter died on March 17, 2011, in the dollar store fire to which members of the North Perth Volunteer Fire Department responded.

Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, and the deadline for any charges to be laid against the fire department or the municipality by the Ontario Ministry of Labour.

There was a collective sigh of relief in the Ontario fire service at 5 p.m. Friday when charges did not materialize. There had been considerable speculation that the ministry would lay one or more charges – not because there was an assumption of wrongdoing, but because there was a feeling that the fire service had become a bit of a target for the ministry and its investigators.

We’re told that the Ministry of Labour investigation into the dollar-store fire determined that there were no grounds for charges, and we’re working to get a look at the report through freedom of information legislation.

Meantime, the news story said that as a result of the OFM’s investigation into the fatalities, there will be changes to the Ontario Fire Code about the use of open flames or torches in or on buildings. We’re waiting for confirmation and more details on that from the OFM.

As the K-W Record’s Brent Davies reported, in Listowel, responders weren’t aware that roofing work had caused a fire that had burned for almost 40 minutes before smoke was spotted. Additionally, he noted, they couldn’t have known that the roof was moments away from collapse when they stepped inside.

Still, even without formal changes to building codes or standards and practices, firefighters and fire offices have become more vigilant when dealing with fires in buildings that may have lightweight engineered trusses.

As OFM senior investigator Chris Williams told the paper, “It’s one of the inherent risks in a very dangerous profession. Sometimes those facts are not readily available.”

Lastly, for a Friday, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, there have been an awful lot of stories lately about councils declining to approve fire-department requests for new hires, or finding was around standards and best practices. Fire Chief Kevin Foster in Midland, Ont., is dealing with an interesting dilemma: his council wants to change the way the composite fire department responds to building alarms.

The local paper, the Midland Free Press, has a detailed and accurate story on its website so rather than explaining the issue, click here to read the story and then let us know what you think about council’s suggestion to revert to the pre-2004 deployment model. What’s that mantra? A hundred years of tradition unimpeded by progress . . .

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