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Oct. 1, 2014, Prince Albert, Sask. – When I was in Dawson City recently for the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs conference, I was able to watch a group of officers and firefighters participate in live-fire burns.

October 1, 2014 
By Les Karpluk

Oct. 1, 2014, Prince Albert, Sask. – When I was in Dawson City recently for the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs conference, I was able to watch a group of officers and firefighters participate in live-fire burns.

Yukon firefighters practise live-fire burns in the mobile Drager training centre. Photo by Les Karpluk

The training trailer started as a dream more than five years ago and, after a long wait, in 2013 the Drager training trailer was put into service by the Office of the Fire Marshal. Today the trailer travels to communities so firefighters can train and experience live fires in a controlled environment.

During the conference I was fortunate to observe teams conduct evolutions during which they experienced a rollover in a controlled environment.


When I was given the tour of the trailer by Deputy Fire Marshal Kevin Taylor, it only took a couple of minutes to get a good sense of the pride he has for this piece of equipment.

This burn trailer cost more than $750,000 and it is worth every cent. There are several monitors that allow the operator to watch the teams enter, manoeuver and attack the fire.

Heat sensors are located throughout the trailer and through the monitors, I was able to watch the couch fire, the rollover and see how the team attacked the fire.

The safety features are incredible and if the heat exceeds a specified limit, emergency vents automatically activate and release heat.

By far the biggest benefit of this training trailer is that it builds confidence for firefighters in a safe environment. And, confident firefighters are better equipped to do their job when it counts.

I was also given a demo of a Drager fire-extinguisher trainer by a firefighter who just wanted to fire the thing up and show me what it could do. He explained to me how easy it is to change props for the students, and then lit the baby so flames were dancing. He was excited to show it off and I was happy to listen and watch.

Funny thing though, I found out later at the conference banquet that the firefighter showing me the fire extinguisher trainer was also the city manager for Dawson City. Very nice!

Shortly after returning from Dawson City, I headed to Comox, B.C., to do a leadership seminar at the Comox Fire Department. I intentionally traveled one day early so I could get a tour of the Comox training center. I was not disappointed.

Comox firefighters conduct scenario-based training exercises at their training centre (pictured) twice a week. Photo by Les Karpluk

Chief Gord Schreiner gave me the tour and explained how the training center is used for his firefighters and, in partnership with the Justice Institute of British Columbia, as a site at which firefighters can train to achieve their NFPA 1001 level 2 certification.

Every Friday morning and Tuesday evening, Comox firefighters conduct scenario-based training exercises. The training facility gives the firefighters a chance to run live burns, car fires, multi-storey scenarios, thermal-imaging camera evolutions (with rescue randy being heated in a sauna prior to the evolution) and even confined-space training. I am sure I missed something because the crew at Comox seems to have thought of everything.

The best part of the Comox training facility is the open invitation to any fire department around to attend and be a part of the scheduled training.

Another great part of my time in Comox was the invite to get on a boat and see the ocean. A big thank-you to firefighter Logan for taking the time out of his day to take a few of us out onto the ocean. Trust me, it’s a big deal for a Prairie guy!

In just over two weeks I was fortunate to see fire-service leadership at work. The leadership exhibited by the Yukon Office of the Fire Marshal and the Comox Fire Department are clear examples of the way vision, planning, action and teamwork ensure that firefighters are trained in life-saving skills. 

Great job folks, and thank you for your commitment to keeping firefighters trained and safe.

Les Karpluk is the retired fire chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department in Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University’s Fire Administration and Fire Service Leadership programs. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes

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