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.
The National Fire Protection Association has hired its first full-time regional public education advisor in Canada. In 2015, the NFPA hired three regional public-education specialists in the United States to achieve broader outreach of our educational programming and assist municipalities and local fire departments with fire-safety public education programs.
In the heat of summer, many people are out enjoying time on the water and around marinas. This brings to mind the fact that I was asked to speak at a recent conference about NFPA 303 – Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards.
After several months of planning and preparation, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition has bridged the border. In March, the United States-based non-profit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition announced a new Canadian website, with important educational information for a broad range of stakeholders.
My February column described the new Playbook standard and its application to both service-level determination and corresponding training-level application for an individual authority having jurisdiction.
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.
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.
Fire fighting is a challenging and rewarding career. If you’re thinking about becoming a firefighter, here are some things to consider.
Dräger Canada, an international leader in the fields of medical safety technology, has announced the release of a new multi-gas detector that can detect up to seven gases. The X-am 8000 is now available in the Canadian and U.S. markets. The detector can detect flammable and toxic gases, vapours and oxygen all at once and is applicable to a number of industries, including fire services, chemical, oil and gas, mining, shipping, pharmaceutical and water treatment. Innovative signaling design and handy assistant functions ensure complete safety throughout the process. “An accurately performed clearance measurement is one of the most important safety measures that helps to safeguard against accidents associated with toxic gases, vapours and hazardous substances,” said Larry Medina, product portfolio marketing manager, gas detection at Dräger. “Developed in close collaboration with more than 250 of our customers, the X-am 8000 has been carefully designed and optimized for practical use in the field. We’re proud to add the X-am 8000 to Dräger’s portfolio of best-in-class safety products.” Benefits of the X-am 8000 include: Smaller, lighter device with easy-to-read colour screen which displays up to seven different gases. Compact product design can conveniently be used with just one hand. Mobile device can easily be converted to a fully functional area-monitoring device. Practical functionality that allows switching between pump and diffusion mode by user, saving energy and increasing the operating time of the device without requiring factory modification. Inductive charging which makes the system more durable and less vulnerable to water, dust and dirt, which may reduce maintenance needs and increase the lifespan of the device. Intuitive smart assistants for clearance measurement, leak detection and benzene-specific testing. Click here to learn more about the product.
Safer Alarms of Stamford, Conn. has announced its global launch of the first Arrow-Certified, fire detection product of its kind since 1965 when battery-operated smoke detectors first hit the market. The product detects the heat of a potential fire before there’s smoke. This buys people precious time to get out before it’s too late. The founder of Safer Alarms was inspired by the loss of three children in his neighbourhood to a house fire on Christmas Eve in 2011. There are two Safer Alarm options – a remote you can place anywhere, especially near the source of most fires such as a stove and laundry room, and one that you can hang from your Christmas tree. Safer Alarms are not smoke detectors. They are compact, heat sensor and companion remote alarm systems that eliminate an increase in false alarms such as smoke from the stove. The heat sensor is placed at high-risk locations near the source of most fires, like in the kitchen, laundry room, overloaded outlets, nursery, or Christmas tree. As the temperature hits the critical danger zone of 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the sensor sends a wireless signal to the alarm before the smoke travels to traditional detectors. The alarm meets all building codes and will continue to sound even if the heat sensor has melted – giving the consumer more time to escape and mitigate property damage. Safer Alarms has also created the Safer Christmas Tree Alarm which hangs like a traditional ornament in the tree and will send a wireless signal to the remote alarm unit the instant a fire event is detected. The Safer Home Alarm System and the Safer Christmas Tree Alarm will be in retail stores this fall and sell for about $60, but are offered on IndieGoGo starting at$20each. Click here to go to the IndieGoGo page.
Blackline Safety Corp. of Calgary, Alta., has launched its second-generation Blackline Analytics platform, a tool that makes it easy for businesses to manage gas detection programs. The new data analytics software enables businesses to leverage the data streamed from their connected G7 gas detectors, empowering decision-making with user-friendly data visualization tools. “Blackline is the only vendor to combine turnkey, 3G-enabled connected gas detection with location-based data analytics software,” said Cody Slater, CEO and chairman of Blackline Safety. “Since launching the first generation of Blackline Analytics at the beginning of the year, we’ve been overwhelmed with positive customer feedback. Not only has our analytics software empowered customers with data-driven decision-making, this leading capability has helped us win new customer business as a key competitive differentiator.” “Businesses are increasingly driven by data and connectivity,” said Sean Stinson, VP sales and product management. “With Blackline Analytics, we are moving the gas detection industry into the future. “Our G7 connected gas detectors generate much more data than convention instruments that just beep and flash. Equipment usage, gas readings, location data, sensor tests and calibrations are continuously streamed to the Blackline Safety Network for analysis, driving unique insights for businesses.” Blackline Analytics is accessible from any internet-connected device and launched with five interactive reports that will soon be joined by more reports, driven by customer feedback. Current Blackline Analytics online reports include: Event report: Provides a high-level overview of customer data, allowing users to quickly drill down into specifics using several filters. Charts enable quick comparison across individuals and teams. Users can explore how frequently one data type was reported and see when data events occur over time. Event Map report: Users can explore the locations where data events occurred by choosing a date range and using an interactive map. Multiple occurrences of the same type of data can indicate a recurring issue that may require investigation. Incident report: Presents data for an individual employee or team that makes it easy to investigate an incident relating to gas exposure, an injury or health incident. Usage and Compliance report: Presents regulatory gas detection and usage compliance data through a series of interactive charts. Businesses can monitor how teams are using equipment and if they are performing required gas sensor testing and calibrations. Bump Test and Calibration report: Customers can further drill into gas detection compliance data, examining each test and calibration performed, to identify and manage the cause of any failures that may have been encountered. Blackline Analytics leverages assisted-GPS location technology embedded into every G7 gas detector to accurately record the location of gas readings. It also supports Blackline’s proprietary location beacons, used when working around and inside facilities where GPS satellite signals may be less accurate or not available. To learn about the product and company visit Blackline Safety.
A new Simplex life safety network released by Johnson Controls will greatly increase the speed and ease at which fire detection and life safety systems communicate and operate. The Simplex ES Net Life Safety Network harnesses the power of IP technology with data rates up to 100 MB per second and a range of network connection choices including ethernet, DSL and fiber. The network will give building owners reassurance knowing that as the IP standard evolves, so will ES Net, making the life safety system resilient and future-proof. Simplex ES Net also provides greater flexibility during network expansion. By allowing up to 25 kilometres between units, ES Net gives users more options to meet performance and budget requirements. The network’s increased memory capacity and broad bandwidth helps improve uptime, ensure more consistent performance and support future expansion and enhancements. “Johnson Controls has brought leading-edge innovation to fire detection and life safety systems,” said Anil Konjalwar, senior product manager, fire detection, at Johnson Controls. “The new Simplex ES Net offers a powerful solution for customers seeking a fast, reliable and efficient life safety network.” With the system’s TrueSite Workstation Mobile Client, network monitoring and management can easily be completed on a mobile device or single console. Advanced diagnostic tools ensure fast installations, easy commissioning and quick, efficient pinpointing of network performance and connection issues. Johnson Controls is a global diversified technology and multi-industrial leader serving a wide range of customers in more than 150 countries. For more information about the company’s fire and life safety systems, click here.For more information about the company, visit Johnson Controls.
For the third consecutive year, Ram Air Gear Dryers is giving away a new gear dryer to a lucky fire department. The Hometown Heroes Gear Dryer Giveaway was established by the company as a salute to the firefighters that serve in the U.S. and Canada. No purchase is necessary to enter or win. The contest is open to employees, volunteers or retirees of any fire department within the U.S. or Canada. One lucky fire department will be awarded a Ram Air Gear Dryer. “As a firefighter-owned company, we have a sincere appreciation of preserving the safety of firefighters and those they serve,” said Lance Dornn, president of Ram Air. “Our gear dryers help reduce the risks associated with dirty, wet gear and, as such, we are proud to salute our hometown heroes with this giveaway.” To enter the sweepstakes, click here. Ram Air provides a full range of dryers made exclusively for drying personal protective equipment, including bunker gear, immersion/hazmat suits, helmets, gloves, boots, facemasks and SCBAs. The company’s patented dryers use heated or ambient air with powerful fans that push air through gear from the inside out. The large volume of air effectively dries gear in a fraction of the time—getting firefighters back to action fast. For more information about the company and its products, visit Ram Air.
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
Call it what you want–pot, dope, weed, hash, joint or marijuana–the Canadian federal government has decided to legalize cannabis in 2018. In recent media releases and interviews, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said legalization is still on track.
You have established a health and wellness program in your department. Now what? How do you ensure its viability over the long term? How do you continue to support your firefighters in maintaining their overall health and wellbeing? These important questions shift focus towards the long-term vision, goals, and sustainability of the program, including budget considerations.
Editor’s Note: This feature is the fourth installment in a five-part series exploring Oak Bay Fire Department’s holistic health and wellness program.
A new Canadian study is calling for the creation of a national firefighter wellness surveillance system to help address soaring cancer rates and other key firefighter health risks.
Editor’s Note: This feature is the third installment in a five-part series exploring Oak Bay Fire Department’s holistic health and wellness program.
We were recently tasked within our fire department to put our health and wellness program to the test. Our department was involved in what firefighters refer to as a ‘once in a career’ traumatic event that profoundly impacted our first responders, families, and our community.
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.
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.
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.
It was a phone call that all chiefs dread: a firefighter had collapsed while getting on a truck to respond to an emergency call, was being rushed to hospital in serious condition and may not make it.Twenty-year-old Jessica Boomhower was at the Greater Napanee Emergency Services headquarters station on June 25 waiting to complete a classification exam with other probationary firefighters when a call came in for a car fire. While getting on the truck to respond, Jessica felt ill and had to be helped off the truck. The crew began to provide medical attention to Jessica but quickly realized that something was seriously wrong. Capt. Matt Westhead, who is a paramedic, recognized signs of a brain injury and updated the paramedics who arrived to take Jessica to Lennox & Addington Memorial Hospital, where she was assessed and immediately transferred to the Kingston General Hospital. Jessica was unconscious and not breathing on her own. As I drove to the hospital many thoughts ran through my head. How this could happen to such a young person? How is the crew doing? Is the fire-service chaplain available? One other thing weighed heavily on my mind: how would our department handle another tragedy? On one weekend in 2010, two highway crashes killed the wife of one firefighter and seriously injured several other firefighters and their family members; we had also endured the sudden death of the two-year-old son of one of our firefighters. Several months earlier, longtime Fire Chief George Hanmore had died of cancer. When I got to the hospital I was met by Assistant Chief John Koeing who updated me about the status of our firefighter: Jessica had a bleed in her brain. I then met with Jessica’s parents, Bonnie and Dale, who are both firefighters with our department; they were surrounded by other family members, friends and firefighters. This situation was very serious and I will never forget the words from the surgeon who had performed emergency surgery to relieve pressure on Jessica’s brain: “She will be lucky to live through the night.” These words tore at the hearts of everyone in the room, including me; after all, Jessica is one of my firefighters, a member of my second family, a family member for whom I was supposed to be responsible, and protect. Over the next couple of weeks, Jessica remained unconscious and in critical condition, but during this time the remarkable started to happen: the Boomhower family and the fire-department family started receiving calls, cards, tweets and Facebook messages wishing Jessica and her family well. People in the community of Greater Napanee held fundraisers to help the family, and fire departments sent donations – from British Columbia to Newfoundland and as far away as Texas. I have always believed in the fire-department family. For us in Greater Napanee, as we once again faced potential tragedy, it was heartwarming to witness members of the fire service come together to help out one of their own, even one they didn’t know. Words will never be enough to thank members of the Canadian fire service for what they have done for Jessica, her family and the Greater Napanee Emergency Services. * * * I have been a firefighter for a little more than seven years, as has Jessica’s father, Dale. And Jessica has been a firefighter for a little more than a year. I was not surprised by the support our department has given us, or by the support from our neighboring departments: we have always felt part of one big extended family. But the outpouring of love and support from firefighters across Canada and globally has been incredible. Jessica has received messages from across the United States and the United Kingdom, and from Australia and Spain. She has received a few very special gifts from Chicago Fire Ladder 13 Company and a care package from Texas, among others.We couldn’t be more proud that we are from Greater Napanee; we couldn’t be more proud to serve a community than we are to serve Greater Napanee. But also we couldn’t be more proud to say we are members of the fire-service family. This experience has taught us to believe in miracles, and the miracle stared with the medical treatment Jessica received from the firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses and surgeons. They saved her life. We are happy to report that Jessica is doing very well – she aced her classification exam, and although she has a long road ahead of her, this young, strong woman can succeed with the continued support of her family and the fire-department family.Terry Gervais is the general manager/fire chief for the Greater Napanee Emergency Services. Contact him at
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.
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.
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.
In early May, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced an agreement in principle for the formation of an Indigenous federal fire marshal’s office, based on a report submitted by the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada (AFAC).
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.
June 1, 2015 - We all value our time and get frustrated when it is wasted. How often have you left a class or conference room and thought, “That is three hours of my life that I will never get back”?
You love amplifiers. Even if you don’t rock out, you love amplifiers. Now before the jazz, classical music and easy-listening aficionados move on to the next article, allow me a moment to explain. As you know, a sound amplifier essentially takes noise and increases its strength to make it louder. As a firefighter, you love amplification because increasing strength with equipment is something that we do daily: fire pumps increase the discharge pressure of our water, hydraulics move extrication tools or monstrous ladders, and compressors jam a bunch of breathable air into a tiny cylinder. See . . . you love amplifiers!
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.
A review of response-time data in Brampton, Ont., shows that little things – the location of the printer and maps, the distance to the truck bay from firefighters’ living quarters, and whether crews start moving before hearing the entire page – can save valuable time and push departments closer to the NFPA response-time standard.
Ram Air announces contest to give away equipment dryerFor the third consecutive year, Ram Air Gear Dryers is…
Free online program available to firefightersFirefighters can now easily get specialized training to maximize their…
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OAFC Fire Con 2018
September 6-9, 2018
Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Ceremony
September 9, 2018
AFF Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial
September 15, 2018
CAFC Fire-Rescue Canada
September 16-19, 2018
Firefighter Training Day
September 29, 2018
Fire Prevention Week
October 7-13, 2018