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October 4, 2012
By Rob Evans

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Oct. 4, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – I had all the best intentions. I was going to blog each day of the Canadian Association Fire Chiefs (CAFC) conference in St. John’s, N.L. No problem; it is just 500 to 700 words. Easy. NOT! Don’t get me wrong; I love how busy I was at the conference. But there just wasn’t time left in the day to write the way I had wanted to. So, now that there is a little breathing room while I’m back at home, I guess I’ll just write my regular weekly blog and talk about last week.

Oct. 4, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – I had all the best intentions. I was going to blog each day of the Canadian Association Fire Chiefs (CAFC) conference in St. John’s, N.L. No problem; it is just 500 to 700 words. Easy. NOT! Don’t get me wrong; I love how busy I was at the conference. But there just wasn’t time left in the day to write the way I had wanted to. So, now that there is a little breathing room while I’m back at home, I guess I’ll just write my regular weekly blog and talk about last week.

The opening ceremonies and memorial service were held at a stunning venue called The Rooms. In a departure from the typical auditorium-style seating, guests were seated in a V-pattern on the third tier of the center. It was a challenge to take pictures in that format, but I got it done.

Monday was the first full day of the conference and was kicked off by Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Lewis MacKenzie speaking about leadership. I have never heard the general speak before and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his experiences about leading our troops. It is too bad, though that, once you have heard someone speak, it is the same speech over and over for the most part. That being said, getting to meet one of Canada’s most well-known military leaders and having my picture taken with him was really cool. That was just an hour of that first day, and other speakers followed.

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Fire Fighting in Canada blogger and fire chief Rob Evans, with reitred Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie at the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs conference in St. John's, N.L.

Scott Marks, retired acting district chief, from Toronto, gave a great presentation about fire ground survival and CBRNE/hazmat initiatives that the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) are teaching across the country. The CBRNE/ hazmat training is funded by the federal government and can be delivered to any fire department at the asking, for free. Make sure you check with your closest IAFF local and see if this could help your department. Unfortunately, the fire ground survival training is available only to IAFF membership. This information and training would be valuable to all firefighters across the country, but as union members have paid for this through their dues, it only makes sense that they wouldn’t want to give it away. However, it would be nice if the IAFF could recognize that although not paid, volunteers would like to access this valuable resource and maybe some type of cost-recovery program could be worked out to deliver program. Hopefully, this is something to think about and if anyone at L255 is reading this and would like to talk, we at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services are certainly listening.

Monday afternoon was just as full of speakers as the morning and all gave outstanding presentations. Fredericton, N.B., firefighter Jeff Mack, a recovering alcoholic, gave an outstanding and emotional talk about post-traumatic stress, how it affects you and those around you, and how you recover from it. I had heard about Jeff and his story prior to the conference but had never had the privilege to hear him speak; it was a very powerful message and one everyone should hear. Break-out sessions on Monday afternoon included Deputy Chief Len McCharles from Calgary speaking about advances in that city with its traffic-management program; Robin MacLachlin and Katlyn Harrison from Summa Strategies talking to delegates about dealing with our politicians, regardless of the level of government; and my friend Serge Tremblay, speaking about the labour unrest in Montreal and how he was able to reach a new eight-year agreement with the union after five years of labour strife. I wish I could have listened to Serge talk about Montreal’s struggles but I was in St. John’s as a chief as well and had to attend the session about government relations.

Tuesday was another full day of speakers and did not disappoint, starting off with Dr. Richard Gasaway, a retired fire chief with more than 30 years of firefighting experience. Gasaway shared experiences of a friend’s recent line-of-duty death and how debriefing quickly can have enormously improve the safety of our fire departments. Following Gasaway was John Saunders, a partner with the law firm Hicks Morley, who spoke to delegates about how to manage more effectively in these times of fiscal restraint. The sometimes less-than-politically-correct Saunders gave an entertaining and educational presentation and certainly any fire chief who heard his presentation will use some of his advice in the future. The line-up kept rolling along with the next speaker, Lt./EMT Rommie Duckworth trying to convince the crowd that nobody is good at multi-tasking. I enjoyed listening to Duckworth when he spoke a couple of years ago in Saint John, N.B., and was looking forward to this talk, but I had to attend a fire and life safety committee meeting. (Editor’s note: Duckworth’s presentation was fabulous; I took notes and will share. Gist: Doing more than one thing at a time means you pay less attention to each one. Focus! –Laura) It is a shame that I missed it because he is a great and engaging speaker. But he wasn’t done there. After lunch, Duckworth once again spoke to delegates, this time, about how to improve morale in our fire departments. In the only breakout session of the afternoon, Michael Sullivan and Lance Valcour from the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG) spoke to delegates about the importance of understanding and supporting 700MHz broadband requirement in Canada.

Wednesday was a little bit slower as far as speakers were concerned, but not any less exciting. The elections of officers took place, and fellow Fire Fighting in Canada writer Les Karpluk from Prince Albert, Sask., edged out Dennis Pilon and Len McCharles for the second vice-president spot on the executive council. Following the elections, the room remained packed while John Saunders spoke once again, this time about the 24-hour debate. The changing face of our fire departments demographics was the topic of the next speaker, Stephen Hammond. He spoke about how the number of immigrants into Canada isn’t just changing how the country looks but also the nation’s fire departments. I had to miss the final session right after lunch to prepare the slide show for the conference’s closing banquet, but luckily our deputy chief was able to attend.

The closing banquet was a fitting end to a great conference. This year, I received my chief fire officer professional designation with a great group of fire chiefs. I was privileged to receive the award with another fellow Fire Fighting in Canada writer, Tom DeSorcy from Hope, B.C. Good friend Les Karpluk presented the certificates to us and, of course, I couldn’t take pictures so Vince McKenzie from Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. picked up my camera and took pictures of all of the recipients. And last, but certainly not least, Fire Fighting in Canada editor Laura King was there taking pictures of us, as well. It was almost overwhelming to share the moment with so many great friends, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

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Fire Fighting in Canada editor Laura King with columnists Tom DeSorcy (left) and Rob Evans (right), who received their chief fire officer (CFO) designations at the closing banquet of the CAFC's Fire-Rescue Canada conference in St. John's last week. Fellow columnists Les Karpluk chairs the CFO committee and presented the certificates. Photo by Vince MacKenzie (with Laura's camera).

Rob Evans is the chief fire officer for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary. Evans attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1989 and studied photojournalism. In 1992, he joined RMES after taking pictures of an interface fire and making prints for the department. He has his NFPA 1001 level II certification, NFPA 472 Operations and Awareness (hazmat), NFPA 1041 level I (fire service instructor), Dalhousie University Certificate in Fire Service Leadership and Certificate in Fire Service Administration and is a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. He lives in Redwood Meadows with his wife, a firefighter/EMT with RMES, and three children.


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