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May 15, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Wow, I am just full of blog posts this week. It must be the 20-plus degree weather that has finally arrived in our neck of the woods. However, during the recent training at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES), we were all bundled up with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark. Good thing, I guess, because we were running some ice-rescue drills. And besides, cold weather makes watching the Stanley Cup a little easier to take – for those of us without a team in the second season.

May 16, 2013
By Rob Evans

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May 15, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Wow, I am just full of blog posts this week. It must be the 20-plus degree weather that has finally arrived in our neck of the woods. However, during the recent training at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES), we were all bundled up with the temperature hovering around the freezing mark. Good thing, I guess, because we were running some ice-rescue drills. And besides, cold weather makes watching the Stanley Cup a little easier to take – for those of us without a team in the second season.

Like many small volunteer departments, we at RMES leave the more technical rescue jobs to departments that can afford to have the big teams – you know, those with large dive rescue programs, or with confined space and heavy urban search and rescue equipment, or to the glow worms in hazardous materials suits. It is just not sustainable or realistic for smaller departments to train their members to technician levels for these specialized teams. During the last month, though, we have been busy bringing an awareness and operational level of skill for some of these tasks.

Along with the ice-rescue training, many of our firefighters have been going through our rope equipment, getting familiar with every prussic knot and pulley. RMES provides only a non-technical, low-slope program for rope rescue, but each and every piece of equipment is checked and double-checked. And, while our members do not carry out high-angle rescues in the nearby mountain parks, we do provide assistance to Alberta’s Public Safety officials when called in – something that happened more often last year after we placed our Polaris Ranger into service.

Last year, RMES was lucky enough to place a lot of new equipment into service. Along with our new rescue truck, we purchased new hazardous-materials equipment and placed those tools on the truck so that we could deal with emergencies, specifically at our water-treatment facility, although the tools could be used for any appropriate incident. Later this month, RMES crews will be going through their NFPA 472 operations training after just finishing their awareness level. Hopefully the weather is a little cooler for them while they are in the hazmat suits going through decontamination procedures.

All of this is going on without our new class of recruits, though. They have enough to worry about just learning the basics. Our recruiting group did another fantastic job of hiring again. Nine of the 11 people who were hired at the end of 2012 are still with us, and that is a bittersweet figure; two of the rookies have asked for leaves of absence as they have been hired by the City of Calgary. They start their training this week, along with one of our longer-serving members. So we have three firefighters in Calgary’s new class of recruits and we are pretty proud of that – it speaks volumes to the type of people our recruiters are hiring. In the past two years, we have had one of our firefighters hired by Toronto, two hired by Edmonton and five firefighters hired by Calgary.

As I said, we are incredibly proud of everyone who has moved on to bigger things in their firefighting careers, but I wish it had not been so many, so quickly. The farm team needs to develop some of these guys and keep them in Redwood Meadows for a little while. I guess, like many smaller departments, we will always be the AHL to the big city’s NHL.

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. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof.


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