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I heard about the NFPA ecosystem during a meeting in Quincy, Mass., more than a year ago. I was baffled. I was sure an ecosystem was something I learned about in the rainforest segment of Grade 5 science class. What the heck did an ecosystem have to do with NFPA and, in particular, fire prevention and public education?
Back in mid-2017, when I was editor of this magazine, NFPA regional director Shayne Mintz sent me an email asking if I could put word out to my contacts about a new pub-ed position for Canada.
With new legislation that came into force Oct. 17, 2018, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, it appears evident a whole new world is being unveiled to the fire service.
Many of us assume Canada is a peaceful, law-abiding nation free from violence and hostile events that seem to plague many others around the globe.
This past June 14 marked the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, England, that blaze was one of the most tragic fires in the history of the modern United Kingdom. Seventy-two people died and more than 70 were injured.
A casual question from a colleague could eventually lead to changes to the no-stopping zones around fire hydrants in British Columbia, underscoring the importance of taking a second look at long-held practices.The no-stopping zones around hydrants are a significant issue in urban areas, where space for parking is at a premium. In most jurisdictions, it is illegal to park a vehicle within a certain distance of a hydrant, to ensure it is visible and accessible during emergencies. Across North America, this distance is typically three to five metres (or about 10 to 16 feet).British Columbia is at the top end of the range. Chapter 318, Section 189 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act (RSBC 1996) prohibits vehicles from stopping within five metres (about 16 feet) of a hydrant. Municipalities mirror this distance in their bylaws to prevent conflict with provincial regulations. The result is 10 metres – more than 32 feet – of unused road space around every hydrant.But is that much space required? This was what Fraser Smith, the City of Surrey’s general manager of engineering asked of Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis in 2016. This question resulted in a study on the issue by the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), written by Garis (an adjunct professor at UFV) along with Surrey Fire Service Deputy Fire Chief John Lehmann and strategic planning analyst Alex Tyakoff.“Providing on-street parking is critical to the success of neighbourhood densification in communities. As we accommodate residential growth through townhouse and apartment developments providing one or two additional parking spaces next to each fire hydrant will be greatly appreciated by our residents. In a growing neighbourhood the total increase in parking spaces could be very meaningful,” said Smith.To prepare for the study, titled The Reduction of Parking Restrictions around Fire Hydrants: An Examination of Parking Distances and Setback Regulations, Surrey Fire Service conducted a series of evaluations to determine the impact of reducing how far away vehicles could park from hydrants. Of specific concern was the potential to impede the flow through the four-inch supply lines running off the hydrant side ports. The study also looked at potential damage to vehicles parked next to hydrants.The testing included simulations of crews arriving on the scene in an engine, stopping at a hydrant and removing the equipment and hose before sending the truck further down the road. This simulated a “forward lay” tactic, where water uses existing head pressure to make its way to the engine at the fire scene. A baseline flow of 250 gallons per minute was used to measure any reduction of flow through kinking of hose lines at corners.In the end, the testing showed vehicles could park as close as two metres from hydrants – less than half of the current requirements – without affecting visibility and access.This conclusion is supported by the National Fire Protection Association hydrant clearance standard, which recommends 60 inches (five feet) of clearance on either side of a hydrant with a connection diameter greater than 2.5 inches. This standard was updated in 2015 and provides for three times less parking clearance than is permitted in B.C.Given the results of the testing and the widely recognized NFPA standard, the study concludes that a no-stopping zone of 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) on either side of a hydrant would not affect fire fighting operations or public safety while allowing for additional street parking.Why does the province require so much parking clearance? If the reason was to ensure emergency responders could easily spot hydrants, that is no longer valid, given today’s widespread use of GPS, CAD maps in fire trucks and other technology, not to mention the drivers’ awareness of hydrant locations.If the reason was to ensure firefighters have adequate access to hydrants, that rationale is also not sound. Fire apparatus rarely, if ever, pull up right next to the curb at fire hydrants; the practice instead is to block travelling lanes as necessary.Whatever the original justification, the matter is being brought to the attention of B.C.’s provincial government. Smith took the study to Metro Vancouver’s Regional Engineers Advisory Committee (REAC), which crafted a resolution requesting that Section 189 of B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act be amended to permit municipalities to limit the no-stopping zones near hydrants to 2.5 metres on either side, measured from the point in the curb or road edge closest to the hydrant.The resolution was supported unanimously at the 2017 annual general meeting of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia, and has been provided to city managers to strengthen the position with the provincial government.The amendment would enable B.C.’s local governments to update their bylaws and free up additional parking spaces — a boon for urban and growing communities — while having no negative impact on fire operations.Ultimately, it is important to remember that the recommended change was the result of a simple query about why we do things a certain way. These types of questions are often dismissed. However, in this case, making the effort to thoroughly explore that question could result in a significant improvement for B.C. cities while also demonstrating how the fire service continues to be responsive to the changing needs of the communities they serve.The Reduction of Parking Restrictions around Fire Hydrants: An Examination of Parking Distances and Setback Regulations can be downloaded for free by searching “hydrant” at http://cjr.ufv.ca.Len Garis is the fire chief for the City of Surrey, B,C., an adjunct professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and an associate to the Centre for Social Research at the University of the Fraser Valley, a member of the Affiliated Research Faculty at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and a faculty member of the Institute of Canadian Urban Research Studies at Simon Fraser University. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it John Lehmann is a deputy fire chief for the City of Surrey, B.C. He has 25 years’ experience, is certified as a fire officer IV and is the chief training officer with the Surrey Fire Service. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Alex Tyakoff is the strategic planning analyst for the City of Surrey Fire Service, B.C., with 25 years’ of experience in public safety research. He possesses a master of science (MSc) degree in urban and regional planning from the University of British Columbia. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Imagine a remote, medium-sized city in a forested region in Canada. It’s only late April and you’re well into a dry, hot fire season. Coupled with a mild winter that saw little precipitation, and you’re already dealing with a number of small fires within your vast fire service area.
May 2016 - Evacuee response to a fire can appear random and beyond understanding. Until relatively recently, fire engineers, safety managers and designers typically assumed that evacuee response would be dominated by panic – people being insensitive to the actual incident conditions they face, causing them to bolt for an exit or freeze to the spot.
May 2016 - A few years ago I received a mass email from our regional Alberta Emergency Management Agency field officer asking if our community, the Lesser Slave Lake Region, was interested in participating in a province-wide emergency management exercise. After four years of constant rebuilding, repairing and reimagining our emergency services after the 2011 wildfire decimated our region, I thought: “Yes, we absolutely have to do this.” (I should have maybe asked around before sending a positive response . . .)
Do you ever feel like the world is testing you a little harder than others?On Thursday, Oct. 29, I firmly believed that it was.
Fire Fighting in Canada editor Laura King interviewed Elliot Lake Fire Chief Paul Officer on Oct. 15, the day Commissioner Paul Belanger’s report on the inquiry into the collapse of Algo Centre mall – and the emergency response to the incident – was released. Part II of the report, on the emergency response, contains 34 recommendations from a more manageable – but mandatory – incident management system, to interoperability, but also praises the Elliot Lake Fire Department’s response to the collapse on June 23, 2012, in which two women were killed.Chief Officer and captains Darren Connors and John Thomas testified during the seven-month inquiry in 2013.Responses from government departments and agencies to the commission’s recommendations are due by Oct. 15 this year.Q Commissioner Paul Belanger’s report is favourable to the Elliot Lake Fire Department, and the commissioner had good things to say about the response. What is your take on the report?  A I’m happy to see that our firefighters received the recognition that they deserve. There was a lot of effort put in on that day. They did risk their lives when they first went in and I’m happy to see that recognized.Q One of the criticisms during the inquiry was the lack of a written incident action plan; the commissioner, however, says the department did everything right. Is that vindication?A I think to a certain extent [it’s validation that we did things right]. Of course you can always learn from things. [Commissioner Belanger] did say in his report that although there was no written incident action plan he did feel that there was a plan formulated in the minds of the various commanders and myself, and I think that’s quite true. Writing things down at the time . . . I had a scribe, but putting up a white board might have helped to clarify things so that if somebody comes on – I won’t say for a shift change because there really wasn’t one – that could potentially help in identifying the whole organizational chart.Q There was considerable discussion during the inquiry about the incident management system and the fact that there were some communication challenges among the various responding agencies. The commissioner has recommended mandatory IMS, and we know the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal is reviewing the provincial system; is it broken and does it need to be fixed?A Even during the inquiry I had a real concern that the commissioner would make recommendations or changes to incident [management]. I can’t speak for the OPP on their training, or EMS, but I do know the fire incident command works, and I had a real issue that they might end up playing with that going forward with something that doesn’t work. I think [the commissioner’s] part in those recommendations is making sure we’re all on the same page – that all agencies are on the same page, that we’re all trained to the same standards, share the same terminology, and, of course, everybody works for a united goal. Q The commissioner’s remarks are pretty scathing in some regards, particularly in terms of the provincial emergency management system. What’s your take on all of that? What needs to be reviewed and how do you create something that works for everybody?A That’s the problem with the diversity in the province, I mean, it should be able to [work for everyone]. IMS is scalable, and if everyone is speaking the same language there shouldn’t be a problem. I think what [the commissioner] was referring to is the silos among the different agencies; he did identify in the report that there are definitely silos and we need to take those down and all go for the same common goal.Q What do you do differently in your department now than before June 23, 2012?A I think probably the lesson for my officers is the note-taking and the detail that’s required. I’m seeing more detail in their reports and we haven’t had another major incident, but I think everyone sees the value in having a scribe at a big incident – that’s one thing I did pretty much immediately and I’m thankful that I thought to do it because it was something that really helped. When I finally sat down to write [my] notes . . . with the scribe’s notes and the recordings, I was able to piece everything together.I think we were a pretty tight-knit bunch before [the incident] and probably, if anything, it has made us more tight. I think everyone is also more concerned about our health and safety; obviously if a firefighter goes down it changes the whole focus of what you’re there for, so that seems to be a little more prevalent as well. As for what ends up happening with the recommendations, we always knew there would be issues on a major call with radio communications and I think that was identified by the commissioner, that there are silos there, and that’s going to be a very difficult one to get over [because of potential costs involved].Q What about the effect of the incident and the inquiry on your members?A We’re still monitoring folks; we have a few who have had some issues. Of course, we offered our employee-assistance program and my door is always open, and I go out of my way to talk to those individuals and tell them they’re not alone. I probably feel a lot of the same things that they do, so talking about it and getting it out there is a big help, so we’ll continue to do that.Q You were a building inspector before you were a fire chief. When you take into consideration the whole report today, how do you feel about it and how do you move on?A Well the whole report took in 30 or 35 years; the way I look at that, everybody had a couple of pieces of a big puzzle and now we can see the big picture and that’s where the recommendations come from and hopefully that will stop anything like this from happening again.Q Does the report provide closure for your department?A I was hoping that it would. I was looking forward to the report and finally putting this behind us. It has been a daily thing and, of course, you’re still trying to do your daily duties and serve your municipality and the citizens. It has been a difficult couple of years.   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.firefightingincanada.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriac63a26524a Q You are speaking over the next while to chief officers at conferences across Ontario about your experience. What will you tell them?A Well, obviously these events can happen anywhere. I’ve said it before: Elliot Lake should be a fire chief’s dream location, and we still had an event like this. I will probably do a quick summary on the conditions; one of the things I’m the most proud of – at one point I think we had close to 400 people on scene, and we ended up, in those conditions, with just three minor injuries (a shoulder injury, a minor cut hand and a minor ankle sprain), so with the conditions that we dealt with and the fatigue, I’m pretty proud of that fact because we could so easily have had some pretty serious injuries, if not deaths. I’ll reinforce the note-taking, and some of the recommendations I’d like to see that were put forth by the commission. I tend to agree with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs [which recommended to the commissioner] that a support team for the smaller town fire chiefs is a good idea, and I see that’s a recommendation and it’s one I would like to see happen. It has been very challenging and very difficult on the department and the community as a whole and it can happen anywhere, there’s no two ways about it. Q The role of the Ministry of Labour (MOL) at a rescue was unclear to many on the scene, including MOL inspectors and engineers. The province made clear in its submission to the commissioner that the MOL can, indeed, shut down a rescue if workers are at risk – although that didn’t happen here. Is the role of the MOL now clear to the fire service and is there something more that fire should be doing to make that clear to its members?A I believe it is clear that they have the right to be there; it does cause concern, depending on the capacity in which they are there. If they are there to work in conjunction with the incident commander, then I don’t think I would have so much concern with it. But I do believe – and I think it was mentioned in the commissioner’s report, and I would have the same problem with it – that a MOL presence does tend to make you re-think your decisions, look over your shoulder; you don’t have time to second-guess your decisions and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Right across the province it could be an issue. Obviously they have the right, so maybe there can be some kind of accommodation between the fire service and the MOL. There are certain things that would be of great value – for example, having access to provincial engineers. When [the collapse] took place we were unable to secure the services of an engineer; those folks work for the province and if we call and ask, they can come, so that would be quite nice.Q You testified that you didn’t know about the OPP’s search and rescue team, UCRT. UCRT was praised by the commissioner in his report for its quick response, and the Toronto HUSAR team was, in fact, criticized for its slower response – it took them six hours to deploy and then, of course, they had to get to Elliot Lake from Toronto. The commissioner is recommending that the teams work together and he has called for the reinstatement of federal funding for HUSAR, which is unlikely to happen.Some Elliot Lake residents asked today for a team specifically for northern Ontario, which we know is not financially feasible. I don’t see a solution in the recommendations. Do you?A I don’t either and I’m not sure where they’re going to go with that. The idea would be that they work under one set of rules; that they work together. If UCRT remains on its own, as its own entity, the two teams still would need to work and train together. One thing I would like to see, if UCRT is that quick and capable, it would definitely have been a benefit to have their planning chief and their commander come up [to Elliot Lake] so that we could get ahead on things. They’ve got to work together; if it’s UCRT that’s the light team and if they’re coming up and making provisions, so you have a planning chief and you start formulating an incident-action plan, and all of the sudden the heavy team comes up and they don’t like that plan, well you’ve just wasted a whole bunch of time, so one way or the other they’ve got to get that together. Q What are you going to do now in your department? Are you going to look at the recommendations and discuss them? How do you bring that closure?A I think we’ll probably afford everyone an opportunity to review the recommendations, and it will give me an opportunity to thank everyone again for the job that they did. If there’s anything that we can learn from the report that we can implement immediately, we will. I think that, manpower permitting, if we can have a scribe for the incident commander – one thing we did learn that was somewhat unfair to someone like [Capt.] John Thomas was that when he replaced me [on scene as incident commander], the scribe came with me; that individual should have had a scribe as well. That would have helped when it was time to recall notes. One step we’ve taken and I’ve informed council and my boss – the CAO – about is that the fire chief in [nearby] Blind River – if we have another event – will come up as support. Say if there’s was a fire event and I can’t even break away and get to council or the EOC, he will be that person, and I’m a radio call away if there’s any further information that’s needed. We’ve implemented that and I’ll do the same for his community. We have made some changes.
Sept. 13 was a milestone day for emergency preparedness in the Central Okanagan region of British Columbia.
The 2019 Security, Police, Fire Career Expo held March 7 at the International Centre in Mississauga on March 7 was a success. Those seeking a career in the fire service were able to meet and have one-on-one discussions with a number of fire chiefs and firefighters. The event was presented by Fire Fighting in Canada, Firehall Bookstore, Canadian Security, Blue Line and SP & T News. Fire mentors included: ·      Richard Boyes, executive director of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and Helaina Mulville, administrative support coordinator at Ontario Fire Administration Inc. ·      David Cunliffe, fire chief of the Hamilton Fire Department. ·      Dave Pratt, fire chief of the Milton Fire Department. ·      Damond Jamieson, deputy fire chief of the Cambridge Fire Department. ·      Vannetta Tustian, a Toronto firefighter who is director of professional development – student recruitment for Fire Service Women of Ontario, and volunteer firefighter Taylor Wardaugh. ·      Chad Roberts, acting captain at the Oakville Fire Department and member of the extrication team. ·      Kory Pearn, firefighter with the City of St. Thomas and author of The Complete Guide to Becoming a Firefighter.   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.firefightingincanada.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriace99b72ab0
For Canadian fire services to effectively transition to a fire-prevention culture from the longstanding suppression mentality, everyone from officers to recruits needs to buy in.
Hiring firefighters has changed from the days when a strong back and bravery were the most prized values of a new employee.
Feb. 29, 2016, Mississauga, Ont. – Fire chiefs who are hiring want recruits from diverse backgrounds who can be developed into strong leaders and will fit in with the department's culture.Post-secondary education is also a preference, more than 100 potential firefighters learned at a career expo Saturday."We are looking for people who want to do more than just show up for work," Mississauga Assistant Chief Shawn Matheson told the audience at Fire Fighting in Canada's spring Firefighter Career Expo at the Garry W. Morden Centre.Richard Boyes, executive director of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, told participants that with more and more municipalities adopting the standardized candidate testing service (CTS), how a potential recruit fits in with a department is more important than ever."If you've all had to pass the same standard, there is no banner over any candidate coming in," Boyes said. "Now, what else are you bringing? We need a wide range of skill sets, because you cannot have any organization [full] of one type of person."Seventeen municipalities have adopted CTS since it launched in April 2014, including Toronto, Brampton and Mississauga. About 1,900 candidates are in the CTS system, Boyes said. Almost half of the audience members in the room indicated that they had been through the CTS process.Mississauga Chief Tim Beckett said in an interview during the expo that CTS has streamlined his department's hiring process, and the standardized system gives him a broader, more diverse range of candidates."From a candidates' perspective," Beckett said, "it limits the amount of money that they continue to lay out time after time applying for all the departments."Beckett and Matheson told expo participants that post-secondary education and leadership skills stand out in candidates."For me, some of it has to do with succession planning," Beckett said.Expo participants received advice about every stage of the hiring process, from what to (and what not to) include in their resumes to how to prepare for interviews.Brampton Fire and Emergency Services Platoon Chief Ed Davis and firefighter Chris Peterson spoke about recruitment trends in career departments, explained where recruits often go wrong – from typos on resumes to first-impression faux pas – and what can help them get noticed.Chris Bedwell from Testreadypro gave firefighter test writing tips, and strategies for first-time, repeat, and second-career candidates. Bedwell stressed the importance of being prepared by researching each test.Dave Gillespie and Shawn Cooligan from Firefighterinterviews.com once again moderated the mock interview exercise, asking for three volunteers from the audience to answer three frequently asked questions. Five chief officers – Beckett, Boyes, Davis, Toronto Fire Services Deputy Chief Debbie Higgins, and Barrie Fire and Emergency Service Chief Bill Boyes – sat on the interview panel and gently (or bluntly, depending on the chief) pointed out how candidates could improve their answers.For Beckett, the expo, as a whole, allowed him to share a message with potential firefighters about diversity."There's a shifting culture [in the fire service] and that's where we are heading," Beckett said. "Diversity is going to play a huge role in this and it's not about quotas, it's really about quality and excellence."The 2016 fall Firefighter Career Expo is scheduled for Sept. 11 at Toronto's Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute.
Before Britney Holmberg was hired by Brampton Fire and Emergency Services in 2013, she had applied to more than 30 municipal departments, written 20 aptitude tests and sweated through eight candidate physical ability tests
Feb. 26, 2013, Toronto – Firefighter hopefuls should arrive early for interviews, dress properly, and be confident, according to fire officers who spoke at the 2013 Career Expo in Toronto on Saturday.
HURST Jaws of Life has expanded its battery-powered rescue tool line with the addition of the R 422E2 Ram, whose 59.1-inch length gives first responders the longest extension in the industry. The tool has claws at both ends that provide gripping power and rotate 360 degrees for use in even the most complicated rescues. It also offers easy maneuverability with an ergonomically designed star-grip. Bruce Johnston, director of marketing and product management for HURST, said in a press release that the reach and hydraulic power of the tool brings portability and performance to first responders at a scene. “We continually look for solutions that will help first responders get to the patient quickly in every situation,” he said, noting that the R 422E2 delivers combined reach and power like no other tool on the market. The tool is NFPA 1936 2015 compliant and has an IP rating of IP54. It comes with two rechargeable batteries and one charger. Click here for more information about HURST and the new tool.
HURST Jaws of Life has launched the industry’s first line of watertight, battery-powered extrication tools for underwater rescue scenarios. Three tools feature water-resistant casing and a new brushless motor for greater efficiency and longer run time. “The launch of the HURST Jaws of Life eDRAULIC EWXT battery-powered watertight tool line provides the industry with another first from HURST, as we continue to bring first responders rescue tools that make what was once seemingly impossible now possible,” Ellie Mulcahy, general manager of HURST, said in a press release. Mulcahy said the new line fills a gap in the rescue tool category for first responders who need extrication tools with power, speed and performance in submerged rescue operations where an external power source simply isn’t accessible and hose lines add complications. Using a potting process, tool engineers designed a protective compound for the internals of the HURST Jaws of Life EWXT watertight tool. When submerged, water enters the battery case, but the potting creates a seal that prevents moisture from getting to components, such as the battery and circuit board. As a result, the HURST Jaws of Life EWXT can be completely submerged and remain operational while underwater without risk of damage to the battery or any loss of performance. The EWXT technology comes in three tools: S 788EWXT Cutter, SP 555EWXT Spreader and R 521EWXT Ram. The use of a brushless DC (BLDC) electrical motor in the tools offers higher performance. Because brushless motors have significantly higher efficiency and draw less current, first responders gain longer battery runtime. The cutter and spreader in the EWXT line also have cases that are three inches shorter than HURST Jaws of Life eDRAULIC E2 rescue tools, providing easier mobility during extrication. Additionally, the new tools have improved LED lights to provide first responders with more visibility in confined spaces and during night rescues. Click here for  more information about HURST and the new tools.
The need for decontamination of all equipment used in either training or emergency situations can not be taken lightly.
Steel River Group Inc. of Calgary, Alta., is now the Canada-wide distributor of a mass water deployment system to fight fires and flooding in remote and hard-to-access areas. The company signed a partnership recently with Fire & Flood Emergency Services to be the dealer and distributor in Canada. The water delivery technology offers customers quick deployment and demobilization of equipment over any terrain and provides a new tool for dealing with devastating fires and flooding in areas that are not easily reached. Steel River Group is a privately held and Indigenous-owned and operated company. “As an Indigenous-owned company, Steel River Group feels a strong sense of responsibility to protect the land and people, which is why this is such a positive new service offering for our company and addition to our Indigenous ecosystem,” company president and CEO Trend Fequet said in a press release. “This impressive technology is ideal for major industrial, infrastructure and pipeline projects, as well as for fighting forest fires, other wildfires and floods.” The system can provide access to water over vast distances in excess of 75 kilometres to build a water-curtain barrier as a buffer to slow firestorm activity. The system can also tap into a mobile hydrant system through a manifold technology for further fire suppression activities, reducing water-shuttle intervals, as well as reducing manpower and personnel exhaustion. The system consists of a series of pumps, hoses and manifolds that are deployed using specialized all-terrain trucks. Fequet said with the system, construction companies, project owners and emergency response teams have an effective new tool to include in their emergency response plans and site-specific safety plans. Click here for more information about Steel River Group.
Hello all. I want to inform you a little bit about the Emergency Vehicle Technician, or EVT program. An EVT technician is someone who performs specialized automotive work repairs on emergency vehicles.
Kochek Company, LLC, a manufacturer of specialty fire equipment and water movement solutions, announced that its new chrome aluminum coating is available for all its products. 
A 911 call comes in and soon police, fire and ambulance services are independently speeding to the scene of a major car crash. Is this the best use of these expensive and limited emergency resources? This is the very question raised by a new study published by Oxford University Press that analyzed more than 100,000 calls for service over a three-year period for emergency service providers in British Columbia.
I was writing this column in late November when coverage of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination permeated newscasts.
I could hardly believe my eyes in July as I watched the breaking news on CNN . . . Airliner crash in San Francisco . . .
In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the role of the fire department in pre-hospital care.
It’s 6:50 a.m. An elderly man awakes with crushing chest pain and dials 911. As he fights to catch his breath and cope with the pain, nothing is more important to him than receiving aid; he needs help now and he needs it fast.
They call me the fireman
Discussing mental health in the fire service is not easy, but it is vital. Firefighters have a higher incidence rate of mental illness and suicide than the general population.
In Google’s 2018 year in review, the company declared the ketogenic diet, or keto diet, was the most popular diet search on the Internet. In 2019, I am sure the ketogenic diet will continue to remain on top of many diet searches.
The greatest threat to the health and well-being of those in the fire service is stress. Stress is at the root of most, if not all, chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and others.
It was Nov. 17, 1990, a night that Tyler Pelke, deputy chief at Red Deer Emergency Service, will never forget.
Eight years ago, Christopher Howe hit rock bottom.
Now that we know that curcumin is the hottest thing since the latest firefighter calendar, it’s time to educate firefighters as to how to use it as a natural supplement to help with health.
In the Peace Region of Northern Alberta, regional co-operation is a top priority for fire departments. This was very evident on May 4, when a fire in a pile of waste-wood material spread to a log yard and threatened the Norbord Inc. oriented strand board plant in High Level.
Mississauga Fire Chief Tim Beckett was on his way home on Tuesday, June 28 – after a day of incident management 300 training – when Deputy Chief Jamie Zimmerman phoned unexpectedly.
August 2016 - A massive fire at a 20-unit apartment building in Sooke, B.C., displaced 19 residents and was a wake-up call to emergency services about the need to plan for large-scale, long-term evacuations.
August 2016 - At 10:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11, just as Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service crew members were headed home from the fire hall after a long, tiring night of hazard-reduction burning and clean up, a call came through dispatch from OnStar (General Motors Canada/Chevrolet satellite tracking communications service) about a vehicle in the Lesser Slave River just north of Slave Lake on Highway 2.
March 2016 - Jan. 11 started much the same as any other Monday morning. The crew members on duty at the Swift Current Fire Department in Saskatchewan completed their morning checks and had prepared for some fire inspections.
August 2015 - At 8:20 p.m. on Saturday, June 20, Barrie Fire Control in Ontario received a call for assistance – a hiker had become trapped in a crevasse in a popular recreational area. Little did I know when my pager activated that approximately 50 firefighters from Clearview and Barrie and, later on, from Toronto, would spend the next 14 hours involved in a rescue – the most challenging rescue of my 20-year fire-service career.
Finding a career that pays the bills and fulfills your passion at the same time can prove difficult. Mykhail Baehr has managed to combine two; fire fighting and photography.
Ontario is home to the largest First Nations fire department in Canada. Fire Chief Matthew Miller, along with the rest of his department, have worked hard to bring the service up to snuff – and keep it there.
The fire service is a business like no other; its main purpose is to serve and protect its citizens and keep its firefighters safe. Services do not need to compete with each other, but rather work together and share with each other. Together we are stronger. That means working closely together both internally (within our fire stations) and externally (within the broader fire and emergency-service community).Internally: When all members (including leaders) of a fire department are pulling in the same direction, both the department and firefighters thrive. The result of this unison is a better place to work and better service for citizens. Firefighters who share with each other are typically better prepared for their next incident. Sharing knowledge and gently pushing each other to be better makes firefighters safer and more effective. Great firefighters are here for the team, not for themselves, and the team is here for our citizens. Together firefighters are stronger, whether that means helping each other with training, fitness, job searches or life challenges. When we play as a team everyone wins!I visit many fire stations each year and I can tell quite a bit about a fire department after meeting some of its firefighters. I am happy to say that most fire departments get it – fire fighting is a team sport, not a place for people who put themselves before others.Externally: When fire departments reach out and work with other fire departments (and other emergency-service agencies) the same benefits can be found. Fire departments that share and train with other fire departments increase the safety and effectiveness of their firefighters and organizations. Helping each other helps departments to enhance the services they provide to their citizens.My department constantly trains with others departments. We are also always looking to improve and find new and better ways of doing things. I know first-hand that interaction with other departments has helped our department to improve its services, increased safety and made us better. We are always willing to share our training centre, training props, lesson plans, PowerPoints and guidelines with others as we know that most will do likewise. When I share something with another department I simply ask that if members of that department improve it, to let us know about the improvements so we can consider them. I was recently asked what I thought was the most significant change in the fire service over the past several years; my answer was the Internet. The Internet allows us to share information quickly and also to see what others are doing (right or wrong). I have good friends who are leaders in the fire service whom I have never met in person, yet we are constantly sharing and trading ideas.I love having other firefighters and departments visit us to train because it broadens our own training as we learn from each other. Fire departments that work closely together to deliver their important services thrive, and their citizens receive better value for their taxes. Mutual-aid agreements assist departments in ensuring adequate resources are available. Automatic-aid agreements assist departments in providing timely responses. Both types of agreements work with little increased costs but provide huge benefits both for the community and the fire departments. Large or small, modern fire departments must realize that they can’t go it alone. Developing strategic partnerships is a win-win situation for us all.Training together prepares us to work together during a mutual- or automatic-aid incident. Sharing resources with each other is common sense and fiscally responsible.My department has also benefited from me travelling all over Canada delivering my Safe and Effective Scene Management (#stopbad) program. I visit dozens of fire departments each year and I learn from all of them. In fact, I have learned so much from visiting other departments that I often come home with some great ideas as to how to improve our services and/or training at my department. Some of the best ideas I have seen come from some of the smaller fire departments that need to be more creative due to smaller budgets (doing more with less). I freely share all that I have learned.Those few departments that, for whatever reason, choose to go it alone, are only hurting themselves and their communities. Working closely with neighbouring fire departments is a win-win for all involved and is also expected by our citizens and politicians. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – just borrow a wheel and maybe make it spin better, then pass it on to others.Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is a full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow him on Twitter at @comoxfire
June 1, 2015 - Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue (SSIFR) in British Columbia has been operating a field incident technician program since 2002. Today the department’s six field incident technicians – who are referred to as FITs – are a vital part of the organization.
Fraser Lake Fire Rescue in British Columbia recently attended a chest-pains call. Dispatch identified the complainant over the radio and a number of us recognized the name as that of a local resident. Instead of listening and responding to the civic address given by dispatch, we headed right over to where we knew the local man lived – only to find no one home. After checking back with a very accommodating dispatcher we headed for the correct address, somewhat red faced. Thankfully the patient suffered no ill effects from our folly, and there was a valuable lesson for all of us who attended.
I think everyone has seen the humorous pictures with anecdotes on social media platforms or email inboxes. Usually I glance at them and move on, but recently one stood out: a leader speaking to a group of followers asks “Who wants change?” and everyone raises their hands. In the next frame, the leader asks “Who wants to change?” Not surprisingly, there isn’t a hand in the air.Change tends to be interpreted negatively, however, the only way to move forward is to change. In fact, failing to change often yields negative results for those who try to remain static while everything changes around them.For the fire service, simple co-operation and co-ordination with other municipal departments or agencies that serve the same group of customers can be an effective way to incorporate positive change.When fire-service managers fail to co-operate with other municipal departments, managers of those departments, and our customers – the public – tend to think we are protecting our turf. No longer is it unique for municipal managers to co-operate with other city departments or even outside agencies. To collaborate and search for effective cost saving and service-enhancement opportunities means the fire department must compromise, but not necessarily concede. Chiefs need to be prepared to communicate solutions to fire department challenges and include some ideas that may have been presented by other municipal departments. This approach also gives fire-service leaders the opportunity to present successful fire department ideas, strategies and successes to municipal colleagues and can result in respect and support from municipal leaders.Dynamic, sustainable organizations must remain active and engaged in their realms. Organizations that resist change will become extinct. There is a choice; guide it or ride it. Our industry leaders have the opportunity to lay the foundation today for the fire service they believe is appropriate for tomorrow. A commitment to think openly and have a vision can lead to a positive future for the fire service; remaining passive will lead to extinction. Although municipal fire services are generally cherished community organizations, they will not live on forever if fire-service leaders choose to maintain the status quo because other service providers – public and private – offer more economical options.Progress is not a continual slope upward, rather it is a series of peaks and valleys with each peak giving way to a plateau, and each valley more gentle than the one before it. Times of rest help us to adjust to the new normal and provide the opportunity to prepare the organization and its members for the next climb. Use the valleys to reflect on where your organization and you have been. Cherish accomplishments, even those that may have been short-lived; they may have shown the way to the new normal. Use these situations to analyze how or why an initiative wasn’t as successful as anticipated; look for opportunities to take further actions that may result in a more successful implementation of a new or revised program or idea. Keep an open mind about what opportunities exist.Most departments are now long past the do-more-with-less attitude that has plagued the fire service for years; in fact, most are at the point of doing less with less. Perhaps the best-case scenario now is to find things that can be done differently so that fire departments can more efficiently maintain or improve service and safety in our communities and for firefighters. If that were the case, there would be hands in the air when the question “Who wants to change?” is asked, because change necessitates doing something differently, not just waiting on others while the fire service maintains the status quo.Opportunities and examples of change are vast; many are spoken about at fire-service conferences, workshops and seminars. Some of the simplest and most easily implemented ideas are often right there in front of us, created and implemented by people we deal with every day, including our peers in other municipal departments. Don’t be afraid to embrace some of their ideas. Although an idea may come from outside the fire service, it may be adapted with great success.Fire service leaders are not always required to be the change champions but there are times when it is appropriate to be the coach, cheerleader or even, perhaps, the naysayer. In each of those roles, you could inspire someone else to present a new idea. Co-operation and co-ordination with other municipal departments will improve efficiency and effectiveness of the fire service with the goal of ensuring a strong and sustainable fire-protection system in the community.* Carousel photo from Flickr by Kenny LouieKevin Foster is the fire chief and emergency management co-ordinator in Midland, Ont. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow him on Twitter at @KFoster_FSEM
For years, municipalities have complained about the high cost of firefighter salaries and benefits and the arbitration process that awards them.
Labour relations in Canada’s fire departments are iffy at best.
It’s not exactly Freedom 55, but it’s close. Proposed mandatory retirement for suppression firefighters in Ontario is also vexing and frustrating for fire-service leaders who are struggling to understand its implications.
Editor’s note: Lawyer Timothy Wilkin of Cunningham Swan Carty Little & Bonham in Kingston, Ont., prepared a review for the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs of reported Canadian court cases in the last 15 years that dealt with negligence by municipalities and their fire departments. We looked at several cases in the February and March issues of Fire Fighting in Canada. The final instalment is below.
In March, Alex Forrest was acclaimed to his seventh term as president of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg. The union represents the city’s 1,500 firefighters, firefighter paramedics, fire prevention officers, training academy instructors and senior operations officers.
Like similar-sized communities across Canada, the picturesque town of Caledon, Ont., has a composite fire department and many of its 65,000 residents know each other and the fire chief.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect firefighters. Studies have found that 17 to 22 per cent of first responders are struggling with the problem.
How does a yoga pose and a #NationalDayCalendar help you educate your community on the importance of testing and maintaining smoke alarms? Pretty easily if you know which yoga pose faces towards the ceiling and involves raising your hands above your head.
Firefighters on the front lines battling wildfires are often away from their families for long periods of time. But now, they’ll be able to connect and read bedtime stories to their children via a new free app. Veteran U.S. firefighter Brendan McDonough has teamed up with digital storytelling app, Caribu, to create the Caribu Firefighter Family Initiative. The app connects firefighters and their families via an expansive digital library with hundreds of children’s books in six languages. Caribu is an interactive video-call app that provides a way to read books together on a shared screen to keep the tradition of bedtime stories alive no matter the distance Caribu is donating free month-long subscriptions of its digital education platform to firefighters, their families and those affected or displaced by ongoing wildfires. The subscriptions are available to firefighters across the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. McDonough used to bring a book to read to his daughter over the phone while he was traveling fighting fires. In a recent television interview, McDonough, sole survivor of the Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy of 2013 and inspiration behind the 2017 film “Only The Brave,” relayed how reading bedtime stories to his young daughter on the road gave his morale a boost. “While fighting wildfires, we would be gone from home constantly,” said McDonough. “Being able to read to my daughter at night kept me motivated. I support the Caribu Firefighter Family Initiative because I want to help bring that small, but really important experience, to firefighters and their families.” Upon hearing McDonough’s story, Caribu CEO Maxeme Tuchman was moved to act. She quickly realized that her innovative technology could solve a real and urgent need for firefighters on the frontlines and immediately wanted to do something to help. “We’re so proud to be able to show our support for the firefighters that are dedicated to our safety and keeping the wildfires at bay,” said Tuchman. “We offer free access to all active members of the military; it just made sense to do the same for wildland firefighters who are also away from home for long stretches of time. If Caribu can make just one part of keeping our heroes close to their families easier, we’ve done our job.” Caribu makes virtual story time easily accessible to parents. With only a smartphone and data plan or Wi-Fi, firefighters are instantly connected with their family back home through a shared screen interactive video-call. Anyone fighting in, or directly affected by wildfires, is eligible to participate in the Caribu Firefighter Family Initiative. Simply download Caribu from the Apple App Store and use promo code: BRAVE.Click here to register for the app. Click here for more information.
Batman had Robin. Maxwell Smart had Agent 99. Bautista had 24 fellow Blue Jays.
Until recently, most posts on Redwood Meadows Emergency Services’ (RMES) social media pages informed our fans and followers that we were responding to a call, or showed off photos of training, incidents or fun stuff, such as when one of the probationary firefighters got his helmet caught in the air-horn lanyard on the new engine.
Lots of workplaces discourage employees from using Facebook when they’re on the job. Many Canadian fire departments, on the other hand, have embraced social media as an effective and efficient tool to communicate with residents, raise money, launch recruitment drives and spread information about local emergencies.
So, it’s official. Recreational use of cannabis is now legal in Canada. Let the games begin.
Of all things infinite from birth to death, stress must be one of the most discussed. As you well know, it is of particular consequence to the fire service. If Statistics Canada found in 2014 that almost 40 per cent of those surveyed experience workplace stress due mainly to inflexibility of schedule, long hours, constant connectivity, tight deadlines, and lack of vacation time, then consider the magnitude leap that first responders make with bridging the gap between life and death, encountering human remains, and receiving the palpable anguish of those in the worst times of their lives.
Our cover story on mutual aid covers just one aspect of how powerful working together is in the fire service. As you are well versed, teamwork is not a luxury for fire departments; it’s an essential that would be dangerous to operate without.
It’s a common sentiment that people don’t like change. I once interviewed change expert Peter de Jager on this very thought and his views summarily expressed that people like the change they choose.
It has been quite a transitional time here at Fire Fighting in Canada.
For many, September is the start of the new year – everyone’s enthusiastic about learning, and all the distractions of our oh-so-short summers are gone.
Anti-idling technology and policies could save Canadian fire departments thousands of dollars per year, according to a recent study.
On-the-job experience, smoke alarms and sprinklers have more impact on firefighter safety than a structure’s height or construction material, according to a study of newly available, Canada-wide fire statistics.
Unless it’s on fire or in need of rescue, individuals in the fire service may not always be thinking about the nearest research department. However, here may be increasing reasons to believe that the fire service would benefit from a robust research ecosystem.
On July 5, 2010 a wood pellet silo in Norway exploded when firefighters released inert carbon dioxide into the headspace to lower the oxygen content and suppress a smouldering fire. The lesson from this incident is that the use of carbon dioxide to suppress silo fires is unsafe.
The year is 2025. An elevated heat signature is picked up in a Collingwood, Ont., home and an emergency alert for a structure fire is sent to the communications centre in nearby Barrie. Dispatch notifies the local fire department members through their cell phones, transferring the co-ordinates and fastest route to the scene to their GPSs.
September 2015 - As wood becomes an increasingly popular building material in Canada, there is a corresponding need for fire-safety resources for both the construction industry and emergency responders.To meet this need, the Canadian Wood Council, working with the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, has produced an in-depth guide and research papers with the goal of reducing the risk and losses from construction-site fires. The project was funded through a grant from Natural Resources Canada.“We know from research that once fire-safety systems are in place, wood-based buildings are as safe as any other type of building,” said Michael Giroux, president of the Canadian Wood Council. “However, like all buildings, they are vulnerable to fire during the construction stage, before those systems are installed. As representatives of Canada’s wood industry, we want to help ensure that construction sites across Canada that use wood are as safe as possible.”The guide and research papers can be downloaded for free at cjr.ufv.ca or www.cwc.ca and include: Construction Site Fire Safety: A Guide for Construction of Large Buildings – practical tools and information for the construction industry (also available in French). Construction Site Fire Response: Preventing and Suppressing Fires During Construction of Large Buildings – analysis and response information for the fire service (also available in French). Firefighter Wood Project and Systems Awareness: A Resource Guide – sources of information on fire-safety topics related to wood-based construction. Information for the project was gleaned from best practice, legislation, regulation and standards from Canada, the United States and Europe.   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.firefightingincanada.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=10&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriaa3d79b7058 While the materials focus on the design, planning and construction phases of new buildings, the content is also relevant to projects involving existing buildings, such as demolition, alteration or repairs.It is estimated that more than 100,000 building projects in Canada each year involve wood-based construction (e.g. light wood-frame, heavy/massive timber post-and-beam, cross-laminated timber). These numbers may mushroom in the future following changes to the 2015 National Building Code and National Fire Code that allow the construction of wood buildings of up to six storeys.With this widespread and growing use of wood comes the need for a greater focus on construction fire safety, both from the perspective of builders and emergency responders.  Regardless of the building materials used, construction sites present fire departments with a different set of challenges than those associated with completed buildings. The construction stage is the most dangerous point in the lifespan of any building, due to a number of risks, including proximity of combustible materials as ignitions sources (e.g. electric equipment and hot work such as welding and roofing); lack of completion of any built-in fire-safety systems such as sprinklers; absence of doors, finished walls and other separations that may slow fire spread; and potential site security issues.The widespread use of combustible products such as wood on a construction site, along with the introduction of taller wood buildings, can add a further level of risk and complexity to both fire prevention and response. There have been numerous examples of large-scale construction fires in Canada, including those in Calgary in March 2015, Kingston, Ont., in December 2013, and Richmond, B.C., in 2011. Typical hazards at construction sites include: Temporary heating equipment Smoking Waste disposal Open burning Spontaneous ignition Cutting and welding Electrical malfunction Flammable and combustible liquids Flammable gases Explosives The leading causes of fires in buildings under construction or demolition are incendiary or suspicious events, open flames and embers and heating equipment.Fire safety is the responsibility of everyone involved in construction projects, including the construction industry, employers, workers, site visitors, and provincial and local authorities. Some of these responsibilities are laid out in standards, codes or legislation, such as provincial occupational health and safety regulations.Construction companies also have a vested interest in promoting fire safety at their sites from a business standpoint. Financial losses can be significant because fire departments in general take defensive approaches to construction-site fires as there is typically no need for occupant rescue. As a result, the focus at construction fires is firefighter safety and to prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings.Despite extensive property damages and financial losses typical of construction fires, many Canadian fire departments have limited experience preventing and suppressing fires at large construction sites. And construction-company managers may not fully understand the risks of inadequate on-site fire-prevention procedures and equipment, or know how to implement the appropriate measures.   These factors are a recipe for catastrophic losses, and is the focus of the new Canadian Wood Council publications that specifically tailor information to people who play roles in preventing and responding to construction-site fires.The 52-page Construction Site Fire Safety: A Guide for Construction of Large Buildings targets construction professionals and assumes readers have varying levels of awareness of either the regulatory requirements or best practices regarding fire prevention. Topics covered include: An introduction to construction fire safety Legislation, regulation and other guidelines Fire basics, including theory and extinguisher types and use Construction site dangers and risk management Development of fire-safety plans Site security Fire prevention and protection best practices on more than 20 topics Advice for working with the fire department Working close to occupied buildings Knowledge, skills and abilities checklists for construction fires and hot work The 24-page Construction Site Fire Response: Preventing and Suppressing Fires During Construction of Large Buildings is aimed at fire-service professionals and provides analysis and practical information on fire response for construction sites involving wood. Topics covered include: Construction site hazards and trends Fire department role Risk management Standards, codes and regulation The construction process and typical milestones Fire-prevention planning Pre-incident planning Suppression approaches and tactics The 34-page Firefighter Wood Project and Systems Awareness: A Resource Guide provides links and information about a wide variety of sources of fire-safety information related to wood-based construction. The contents may interest both the construction industry and fire service. Topics covered include: Building construction and construction sites Fire protection and statistics Building and fire codes Structural design Fire safety elements in wood construction Fire protection products and systems Developments and studies in wood construction Additional resources such as videos, media releases, news articles and presentations Training resources and programs Websites for wood industry, building and fire codes, and fire organizations Download the Canadian Wood Council publications for free at cjr.ufv.ca or www.cwc.caLen Garis is the fire chief for the City of Surrey, B.C., and an adjunct professor at the University of the Fraser Valley. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Paul Maxim is a professor in the Department of Economics and the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. Karin Mark, based in Metro Vancouver, is a former award-winning newspaper reporter who writes for publications and corporate clients.
Far too often, we hear stories of vehicle accidents involving firefighters responding to emergencies in fire apparatus or in their own vehicles. This is an area where we, as an industry, can do much better.
Three communities commonly referred to as “the North Shore” are Vancouver’s picture postcard backdrop. The District of North Vancouver, City of North Vancouver and District of West Vancouver collectively stretch more than 30 kilometres from Deep Cove in the east to Horseshoe Bay in the west. In 1891, the entire North Shore was incorporated as the District of North Vancouver. In 1907, the City of North Vancouver came into being and West Vancouver followed in 1912.
How many lives could be saved if emergency responders knew when a cluster of opioid overdoses would occur in advance?
Not all fire departments have communications divisions but every fire department relies on communicators. With 34 years of fire communications experience, there are numerous lessons I have learned, some of them the hard way. I will share some of these through a series of columns.
Those of you who know me know that I am very passionate about the fire service. I have completed 40 years of service and I can’t wait to do a few more. I am excited about the future of fire services, despite our many challenges, and I believe this future is bright; in fact, it has never been brighter.
May 2016 - In the 1990s, rural farm-oriented communities began to see construction of large-scale pig barns. Today, these barns often house thousands of animals, and, when full, are all worth millions of dollars.

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