Fire ground
Written by Ed Brouwer
Today’s training officer needs to be a bit of a miracle worker to get the required fire services training objectives squeezed into a tight, 42-week schedule. As I was writing this column, our department was in its second full weekend of first responder training. In addition to the 38-hour first-responder course, we had a four-hour CPR course, which in itself was double our regularly scheduled practice time.
Written by Ed Brouwer
Lately I’ve been hearing the term “old school” said in a manner depicting out-dated ideas or relating to ideas of little value. I know some of us in the fire service resist change, having become accustomed to a certain way of doing things. And as much as we need to realize that a new way of doing things is not necessarily wrong, the young guns coming up the trail behind us need to see that just because a method of doing something is old, it may not need fixing.
Written by Ed Brouwer
It has been two years since I created the firefighter survival maze, called Firefighter’s Ghost. The maze was first introduced at the 2014 annual volunteer firefighter training seminar hosted by Oliver Fire & Rescue in British Columbia.
Written by Gord Schreiner
Needless to say, I love training and am always looking for ways to improve our training programs. For several years however, I have been concerned about the amount of drinking water my department uses during our many training sessions. You may be thinking; drinking water? I am not talking about bottled water. I am talking about water coming out of our hydrants. In my community, as in most urban communities, the water we get from our municipal hydrant system is our treated domestic drinking water supply. I will be watching a master stream operate and think to myself, “Wow, that is a lot of drinking water going down the drain.” It costs a lot of money to treat and deliver this water to our homes and businesses, and it seems wrong to let it go to waste.

Not only does my department train aggressively by using a lot of water, but we also operate a fire training centre that uses a significant amount of water. I figured we should do our part to conserve our water; doing so would also save money.

My team and I put our heads together to come up with a practical solution; recycle the domestic water we use for training. In addition, we decided to capture rain water for use in our training centre. It is expected that we will save more than one million litres of drinking water per year with these methods in place. The modest project was funded by the Town of Comox and the Comox Firefighters Association, and we also received some material donations.

The system itself is very simple. We capture the run-off in our training centre and store the water in an underground 20,000 storage tank  (approximately 30-feet by 10-feet by 10-feet). When needed, we pump (using a small gas-powered pump) the screened water at up to 130 pounds per square inch, directly back into fire hoses used for firefighter training or directly into a fire engine (at lower pressure). The water is constantly reused, though we lose some to evaporation, and some gets sprayed outside the training area. However by capturing rainwater from the hard surfaces in our training centre, and from a couple of the roofs of training buildings, we have more than enough to keep our tank full. Any surplus water goes back into the traditional storm drain system.

We also use this system to re-fill our fire engines when they return empty from incidents, again reducing our use of drinking water. We have not elimated the use of hydrants altogether in our training centre, as of course, using hydrants is a vital training component, but we have significantly minimized the water we use from them. Many times we will hit the hydrant and then convert to our recycled water system. One of many benefits to this system is that during water restriction periods (typically summer months) we do not have to dial down our training as we are simply reusing the water. We also use the stored water for washing down the training area after its use. Another benefit is that we no longer use a full-size engine to supply our fire hose during day-long live fire programs, reducing wear and tear on the engines and not tying up an engine for a full day. Furthermore, if for some reason our municipal water system is not working, we know we have a large water supply to re-fill our trucks.

Today’s successful fire departments need to constantly think outside the box and look for ways to improve their services without increasing operating costs.

Fire departments, like everyone else must do their parts to reduce, reuse and recycle. You can see more about our recycling efforts on our department website,

I truly believe that we, the fire service, have an obligation to do our part in reducing our environmental impact. In fact, I believe we should play a leadership role in our communities in this area by following good recycling practices in our stations when using water and other products. Today’s successful fire departments need to constantly think outside the box and look for ways to improve their services without increasing operating costs.

Fire departments train to save lives, let’s also train firefighters to help save our environment.

Gord Schreiner joined the fire service in 1975 and is a full-time fire chief in Comox, B.C., where he also manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. 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

Written by Ed Brouwer
Look back on 2016 and ask yourself if your training program engaged your members.  One of your priorities is to get your department members to actively engage which is easy to say, and much harder to put into play, especially week after week. Let’s also be honest: some of the topics we address annually are as boring as dry toast.
Written by Ed Brouwer
I heard one of my neighbours, an old cowboy, say that experience is the best teacher, and I am inclined to believe him. Perhaps that is why I gravitate toward hands-on training rather than just lecturing.
Written by Mark van der Feyst
Most mid-rise or high-rise buildings are equipped with standpipe systems that allow firefighters to access water. Fire crews need to consider many elements with respect to securing a standpipe system, such as the size of hoselines, types of nozzles, tools or equipment to bring, the number of firefighters needed, where to stage all of the equipment, and whether or not to use the elevator.
Written by Mark van der Feyst
In this series about rapid fire development (RFD), we have focused on the science behind flashover and how water is used to aggressively cool the gases and the environment in order to reduce the heat-release rate and contain radiant heat. The third and final part of this series is a study of ventilation as a companion to using water for aggressive cooling.
Written by Shayne Mintz
Are your fire crews prepared to respond to incidents involving electric, hybrid, or fuel-cell vehicles?
Written by Mark van der Feyst
Firefighters should be aware of situations that lead to rapid fire development (RFD) – occurrences such as flashovers, backdrafts and smoke explosions – and how to take aggressive action to protect themselves. In the March issue of Fire Fighting in Canada, we examined why better gear and new construction materials expose firefighters to RFD today more than ever before.
Written by Ed Brouwer
Victory loves preparation. This statement reflects what training officers should aim for on practice nights.
Written by Gord Schreiner
Training is a vast subject and is, of course, vitally important to the success and safety of a fire service. I often say that without on-going training a firefighter is just another civilian.
Written by Ed Brouwer
As I got out of my truck in the Walmart parking lot, I heard a voice behind me say, “Hey buddy, any change?” I don’t remember the fellow saying, “Do you have any change?” and so as I went about my shopping, I thought about the way the question was phrased and applied it to my role as a training officer.
Written by Mark van der Feyst
Rapid fire development (RFD) is a concern that all firefighters face whether they are undertaking engine-company or truck-company functions. RFD refers to occurrences such as flashover, backdrafts and smoke explosions, and can take place at any structure, at any time of day, anywhere in the country.
Written by Mark van der Feyst
The transitional fire attack is a relatively new tactic by name, but some of its practices have been around for many years. This tactic gained traction in the last two years as a result of the studies completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) in New York and Chicago.
Written by Ed Brouwer
It’s a new year and a new batch of recruits. I have the pleasure of instructing a lot of very able and smart men and women. But, to be honest with you, there will be a few recruits this year who will simply be head and shoulders above everyone else; they don’t just do things, they do them incredibly well.
Written by Ed Brouwer
I’m an old-school gearhead and I take pride in my tools. My standard wrenches are hung in precise order from 1/4 inch up to 1 1/4.
Written by Mark van der Feyst
Advancing a preconnect hand line into a structure is a common offensive attack to get water to and on the fire quickly. Another option for engine companies is the blitz attack.
Written by Mark van der Feyst
The final part of this series on the basic skills of engine companies to get water to and on the fire focuses on the process by which water is sent to the nozzle from the truck.
Written by Ed Brouwer
I sat down to write this column between wildfires in late June. Our wildland fire-suppression crew based in Osoyoos, B.C., had just returned from actioning one of the dozen or so fires that resulted from a lightning storm that passed through the area two days before. While we came off reasonably well, our neighbours two hours south in Wenatchee, Wash., suffered tremendous loss. A fire there scorched about 1,194 hectares (2,950 acres), destroyed 29 homes and damaged four business complexes in the commercial area to varying degrees. Although it is now thought that the Wenatchee fire was human-caused, the speed of fire spread is evidence of the tinder-dry conditions we were facing at the time.

Our crews remained on standby so I had a limited amount of time to work on this column (it was well overdue). One of my crews is made up mainly of Indo-Canadians who have names like Harsimran, Shiraz and Gurvir, and so I got tagged as Bindar Dundat. These guys crack me up. I have, in fact, been there and I’ve probably done that. And this, as strange as it may sound it, was the basis for this column.

I’m 62 years old and still completely sold to the Canadian fire service. I’ve been an officer for more 24 years now. My two sons, Aaron and Casey, and I were often the first ones geared up in SCBA and making entry. Both these guys are still active firefighters; Aaron with Prince George Fire Rescue and Casey with Osoyoos Fire Department, both in British Columbia. And, so my wife and daughter don’t feel left out, I have to tell you (proudly) that they have both spent hundreds of hours on the fire line as wildland firefighters.

The fact I’ve been there and done that has enabled me to be a successful trainer, and hopefully an equally successful mentor.

Although some folks say 60 is the new 40, my body tells me differently. More and more I find myself choosing the roles of incident commander and safety officer (lookout) rather than the gazelle running up the hill to dig a guard. I think subconsciously I have resisted that change. In many ways I have struggled with this aging thing. It bothered me that I wasn’t the best choice for the entry team.

And then the other day on the fire ground I realized that I failed to see the importance and necessity of my role change. In conversation with my crew I discovered that I do have valuable insight and experience to share. Many of you are in or entering this same season in your lives. Don’t sell yourself short, for you too can be a Bindar Dundat.

Please know that true mentoring isn’t in a group setting; it is generally between two people. As a mentor, you shouldn’t let the new guy struggle to reinvent the wheel. Help him or her, and invest time and energy into his or her progress. Spend time sharing your insights, struggles and victories. Challenge pupils with questions, and get them to think.

I noticed that there are a number of departments that send their senior members to various training events. Consider this: training can easily turn into a cost without return when we send someone for training who already has those needed skills or knowledge. I suggest choosing a younger firefighter; one who shows an interest in learning. Send him or her to as many training events as your department can afford. Invest in youth now and the dividends will be big in the future.

Every once in a while you come across students who actually want to learn more; they are curious. There are a couple of firefighters I’ve actually taken under my wing. Mentoring can become useless and frustrating when it is forced on individuals, so I have invited them to assist me in running our department’s training program.

Mentoring is a long-term path and is limited only by the experience of the mentor. You certainly cannot give more than you have to offer.

In the long run our job as training instructors is to make sure that our teams can function without us. It’s your responsibility to make sure that someone is ready to take your place, and that takes time and effort.

What if something were to happen to you, and you were unable to return to the department? Who knows where the training records are? Who would fill your role? Would your department have to start over?

And if you haven’t already, prepare others to take your place. Don’t wait too long.

If you are old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show, eight tracks and the Friendly Giant, then you should begin mentoring others immediately.

Yes, it is scary to switch roles, but, brother, it will without doubt be one of the best investments you’ll make.

Ed Brouwer is the chief instructor for Canwest Fire in Osoyoos, B.C., and training officer for Greenwood Fire and Rescue. He is also a fire warden with the B.C. Ministry of Forests, a wildland urban interface fire-suppression instructor/evaluator and an ordained disaster-response chaplain. Ed has written Trainer’s Corner for 13 of his 26 years in the fire service. Contact Ed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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