By Maria Church
Sept. 16, 2014, Toronto - For Sandy Hill, a volunteer firefighter from Nova Scotia, the opportunity to train for aircraft rescue fire fighting is rare.
“We definitely do training at home, but to be able to get to a mock tarmac, see the heat inside of the fuselage and experience that, is very exhilarating,” she said.
Hill was given that rare opportunity Saturday when she, along with 131 other firefighters, took part in third annual Firefighter Training Day hosted by Fire Fighting in Canada at the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) in Toronto. The day-long event was offered for free to all participants thanks to sponsors Scott Safety, M&L Supply, Canadian Safety Equipment, and Fort Garry Fire Trucks.
This year’s trainees were divided into six hands-on training courses – firefighter survival, auto extrication, command and control, live fire, aircraft rescue, and patient packaging and triage.
The specialized training was an opportunity for career and volunteer firefighters to hone their skills and, for some, to use training equipment not readily available in their regions.
Hill, a volunteer firefighter in Canning, N.S., for the past six years, was one of 14 participants in the aircraft rescue course and said her goal was to train in a scenario outside of structural fire fighting.
“Using the vantage point of the crash trucks, using turrets, (and), rather than on the ground, seeing it from a different perspective was really, really exciting,” Hill said.
The weather stayed cool with bouts of rain throughout the day, the perfect temperature for the firefighters, spread out across FESTI’s expansive practical training area, which includes a confined-spaces building, rescue tower, burn building, aircraft training mock-ups and auto-extrication area.
Guided by some of Canada’s top instructors of specialized fire fighting, trainees were taken through various drills and scenarios, some to build-up practical skills such as egress in the firefighter survival course and stabilization techniques in auto ex, and some theoretical such as those taught in patient packaging and triage or command and control.
But you can’t beat the aircraft rescue course for visual drama. Again and again, firefighters seated in pumper tankers or advancing from the ground, doused the massive, propane-fueled flames of the aircraft training mockups.
“My favourite part was probably climbing up on the wing to do the fire attack because it’s not something you do every day,” said Victoria Mckee, a volunteer firefighter with the Halifax Regional Municipality, after aircraft rescue course wrapped up. “Obviously dragging the hose on a slippery wing was quite challenging but it was very fun.
“It was an absolutely fantastic course; I would recommend it to everybody.”
Learn more about Firefighter Training Day
Read our story on Firefighter Career Expo
Check out our Facebook gallery of photos from Training Day and Career Expo 2014 .