By Laura King
Oct. 29, 2015, Toronto - It’s always good when like-minded people get together and do something spectacular.
Which is what happened yesterday in Leamington, Ont., at the first Southwestern Ontario Fire trade show.
Leamington is the greenhouse capital of Canada, so it only stands that when seeds are planted the harvest is always plentiful.
As was the case yesterday: more than 30 vendors, the Kingsville high-angle rescue team demo, lots of trucks, a side-by-side sprinkler display, dozens of pre-service fire students from St. Clair College, and people – lots of people, out to see what all the fuss was about and congratulate winners of a fire-safety poster contest that has grown (sorry, couldn’t resist) so big it had to be relocated to the local community centre from the fire hall.
Already, before the show even opened at 3 p.m., there was talk in the aisles of expansion next year, some training like at FireCon in the north and maybe a speaker or two.
Regional shows thrive here in Ontario – in the likes of Erin, Lindsay and Sarnia – where geography, time and money challenge firefighters, volunteers in particular, to get to the bigger conferences and exhibits.
So once that seed of an idea had germinated in the fertile minds of certain chiefs and deputies – the conversation started with talk of a 2016 show and was quickly expedited (why wait, enthusiastic – or, perhaps, over-enthusiastic organizers said!) – there were feelers put out to departments and vendors about month, date and time: late October – vendors are available and there’s still money left in fire-department budgets; a weekday rather than a weekend so as not to conflict with family and household duties; and 3-9 p.m., so volunteers can come after work.
Leamington Chief Chuck Parsons and Deputy Mike Ciacelli were sweaty, and beaming by 3:01 p.m. Set-up had gone smoothly, the vendors were happy – our Firehall Bookstore booth was well attended (the bucket of Hallowe’en candy may have helped!) – and most importantly, the tail end of Hurricane Patricia that had drenched the region earlier in the day had blown east toward Toronto so outdoor displays and demos could proceed.
The eight Essex County chiefs – in Leamington, LaSalle, Windsor, Kingsville, Essex, Amhurstburg, Techumseh and Lakeshore – are used to co-operating. Pulling together this show, on short notice, and getting such resounding buy-in is impressive.
Chiefs from further across the region – the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs zone 1 group – met earlier in the day to discuss issues and prep for the OAFC mid-term seminar in a few weeks. As is often the case, the agenda included an update from the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management. Unsurprisingly, given the lack of available bodies with recent departures of senior staff, there was no OFMEM presentation.
There was also lots of talk and shaking of heads on the trade-show floor about the wisdom of appointing an OPP officer as the interim fire marshal . . . I’ve already written about that and I promised not to quote anyone whose comments I may have overheard!
Perhaps the coolest thing I saw yesterday was the Leamington Fire Services training maze in the basement of the Kinsmen Community Centre’s. The space is municipally owned, sprinklered, and, until earlier this year, was unused, but that fertile mind of Chief Parsons had other ideas. There’s ample space for trainers to observe and record, and the full-sized apartment-type maze is built of wood and easily switched up so that firefighters doing search and rescue training experience different layouts.
I saw a bit of the landscape and a couple of fire halls on the drive home last evening. Southwestern Ontario is a flat, expansive landscape – and I learned a fair bit about the region’s firefighting history.
As one vendor posted on Facebook, yesterday’s show was the last of the year – a fine end to the trade-show season and a new opportunity to share with like-minded people.
We’ll be back!