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Editor’s Blog


April 24, 2012
By Laura King


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April 24, 2012 - Looks like Vince MacKenzie (Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L.) was officially the last fire chief to arrive home from Indianapolis, having landed at about noon Monday in Gander after his 11 p.m. flight from Halifax was cancelled Sunday night due to, ahem, crew issues.

April 23, 2012 – Looks like Vince MacKenzie (Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L.) was officially the last fire chief to arrive home from Indianapolis, having landed at about noon Monday in Gander after his 11 p.m. flight from Halifax was cancelled Sunday night due to, ahem, crew issues.

Our Saturday afternoon flight to Toronto from Indy was a late leaving because of the volume of carry-on luggage that couldn’t be properly stowed (or some such thing), but was otherwise very quiet, pleasant, and uneventful. Which is (in my experience) a bit unusual for an aircraft full of firefighters, but after an enlightening week of meetings, seminars, networking, entertainment and trade-show walking, was probably a good thing.

The key for Fire Fighting in Canada in Indy (me, sales manager Catherine Connolly, and writers Vince, Mark van der Feyst, Ian Crosby, Randy Schmitz and Chris Dennis), was to see and be seen. On the trade-show floor. In the seminars. At social events. In the convention-centre hallways (where I kept hearing my name called by firefighters/readers from Canada).

Exposure to manufacturers, presenters, firefighters from Newfoundland to B.C., and the U.S., and spending time discussing (or, more often, debating!) politics or gender issues (check our Twitter feed – @fireincanada) or the benefits of combined fire/EMS, was invaluable and has provided tons of fodder for stories for our magazines. We know – it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta’ do it!

The inquest into the four fire deaths at the Muskoka Heights retirement home in 2009 started last week and the coverage, while sporadic, has been gripping and disturbing.

Some of the highlights from the last week (from the Barrie Examiner, the Orillia Packet & Times and the Midland Free Press):

    •    Asked what he did to educate himself on the fire code, [Muskoka Heights owner Dean Rushlow] said he said he got “information through the other retirement homes.”
    •    Asked if he was aware that under the fire code, fire-safety procedures were the owner’s responsibility, or if he had read the fire code, he said, “No; I should have.”
    •    At Muskoka Heights, there was only one staff, a personal service worker, on duty for the 21 residents in the home the morning of the fire.
    •    All of the residents had mobility and/or cognitive impairments and were on an average of six medications, many of which caused drowsiness and dizziness, Dr. Gail Churchill testified.
    •    “We never had a fire drill at Muskoka Heights,” [personal care worker Denise] Collins testified.
    •    In addition to looking after 21 people, [Collins] was tasked with cleaning and snow removal from fire exits. Two of five exits were blocked the day of the fire due to snow and ice buildup.
    •    Collins was working alone, caring for 21 residents, at the time of the fire. She testified that she had never received any fire safety training other than being shown the fire alarm panel located in the basement, and that its use and function was not well explained by [home administrator Gail] Wilson.
    •    Wilson added that she shut off the alarm because it was upsetting the residents and that the alarm was tripped off due to water in a heating unit.
    •    “One person should never, ever work by herself, whether it be days, afternoons or night shifts. I would never, ever (again) work any place by myself," Collins said. “(With) one pair of hands, you can’t save everybody. If there had been two of us, we might not be sitting here today.”

We’ll keep posting news stories for the duration of the inquest – scheduled for six weeks – and will get to Midhurst later this week to hear testimony first hand.

We’re looking forward to our Fire Fighting in Canada Open golf tournament next Friday but we’re truly hoping for decent weather. Last year’s tournament was played in freezing temps with bursts of rain/wind, and the fairways were puddles.

The golf tournament is the day after the retirement dinner for Toronto Fire Services Chief Bill Stewart, and the day before our Ladders Up for the Foundation fundraiser for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (www.laddersup.ca). All that is followed by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs conference in Toronto, then our Career Expo (www.firefightingincanada.com/careers), with the Meaford trial wrapping up in between, the start of Point Edward trial, and the opening of the Gary Morden Centre Dedicated to Fire And Life Safety in Mississauga.

Stay tuned!


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