From the Editor: April 2012
It was over a cold, messy weekend in January that I was struck by two fire fatalities
By Laura King
It was over a cold, messy weekend in January that I was struck by two fire fatalities – one in the Region of Halton, where I live, and the other in nearby Mono Mills, in Peel Region next door.
As I said in my blog that Monday, two fires, two elderly residents, two preventable deaths. In both cases, fire crews arrived to homes fully engulfed. Both incidents were reported by local media, which focused on the response and the fire fighting operations.
For us, the story goes deeper. Given the numbers of fire fatalities in Canada every week (an average of eight) – and until someone develops a better smoke-alarm campaign that targets vulnerable people, including seniors who live alone, or more regions embrace residential sprinklers – it’s imperative that fire departments know and understand the protocols for handling these types of incidents. (In Ontario alone there were 16 fire fatalities between Jan. 1 and March 1.)
Brad Bigrigg is chief of Caledon Fire & Emergency Services in a sprawling, mixed rural and urban district north of Toronto. As he explains in our cover story on page 8, which uses the Mono Mills fire as a case study, early on-site assessment yields important clues about the potential that a fire has been deadly. In this case, the 360 size-up of the property’s perimeter in fresh snow showed footprints leading into the home but none leading out.
Chief Bigrigg’s thorough analysis explains who to notify and when, what support to offer the follow up services, and focuses on lessons learned from this and other fatal fires.
If you ask 100 firefighters why they got into this line of work most will say they wanted to help people and save lives; none joined up to learn which agencies to call in at a fatal fire. Like rolling hose and checking SCBA, the proper handling of fatalities is not glamourous but it’s crucial that it be done properly.
Take the time to read the story and make sure your department knows and follows the protocol, because, sadly, if you haven’t had to do it yet, you probably will.
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It’s our mandate at Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly to give readers advice and news they can use – like Chief Bigrigg does in our cover story – along with analyses and opinion from like-minded experts and observers. Our challenge is to find great writers who will make you think, expand your horizons, entertain and inform. Once again, we’ve unearthed a couple of gems.
Volunteer firefighter and blogger Jennifer Mabee is our new back-page columnist and Esther Lakatos, a captain with Vaughan Fire & Rescue Services, will write about fire-ground operations.
Those of you who visit our web site already know Jennifer, who writes regularly about her training and (always entertaining) experiences as a volunteer firefighter in the Township of Georgian Bay, Ont. Jen gives voice to the thousands of men and women in Canada who balance their roles in the fire service with regular jobs, family life and everything else.
Jen takes over the coveted back page from Tim Beebe, who has moved over to our bother publication, Fire Fighting in Canada, where he continues to share his unique perspective on the fire service from his new perch as director of the pre-service program at Centennial College in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Esther’s impressive resume speaks for itself (see page 32). As a former FireFit champion, the first female captain with VFRS, and an instructor of firefighter survival, Esther will use her expertise to tell stories that will help you implement training practices and protocols, and explain why particular methods work for particular types of departments.
Esther will be on hand at our first firefighter training day in Waterloo, Ont., on Sept. 29, as part of the firefighter survival program. Watch for more about our training day at www.firefightingincanada.com, and feel free to send feedback to all our writers – we know you’re reading and we’d love to hear from you.