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Comment: February 2015

I met British Columbia Fire Commissioner Gordon Anderson in Victoria in June as he was getting ready to talk to chiefs about the province’s new minimum standard for structural firefighter training.

February 4, 2015 
By Laura Kiing

The Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook became effective Oct. 14; it replaces an old standard that was implemented in 2003.

As is always the case, our Fire Fighting in Canada contributors from British Columbia were on top of the news: Dave Balding (page 16) and Ed Brouwer (page 32) filed items this month about the new standard.

Essentially, the Playbook recognizes the fact that many fire departments provide a level of service to communities that does not require NFPA 1001-level training.

“The broad scope and application of the previous minimum training standard left many communities in a position of non-compliance with that standard,” the Office of the Fire Commissioner says on its Playbook Q-and-A page.


In other words, not all communities have the resources – particularly the necessary number of firefighters at certain times – to provide interior attack, and under the new standard, that’s OK.

The Playbook sets minimum training standards based on the established level of fire protection: exterior-operations level firefighter; interior-operations level firefighter; and full-service operations level firefighter.

The Playbook is, effectively, the government’s response to recommendations made by the Fire Services Liaison Group in its 2012 report called Transforming the Fire/Rescue Service. All relevant stakeholders were involved – chiefs, training officers, government, training providers – and they called for “a competent level of fire and emergency services that is supported by sustainable resources . . . ”

The Office of the Fire Commissioner says the concepts in the Playbook are designed to ensure that appropriate minimum levels of training are established that will make firefighters effective and safe while being – and here’s the key – realistic, affordable and attainable.

“This Playbook establishes a process under which training requirements are explicitly linked to the level of service being provided.”

British Columbia’s fire service has been proactive on a number of fronts – residential sprinklers have been mandated in Vancouver since 1990, the chiefs association is studying the affect of fire fighting on cancer rates among women, smoke-alarm campaigns with corporate and government partners are widespread.

All of British Columbia’s fire-service advancements have come to fruition because the Fire Chiefs Association of BC, the Office of the Fire Commissioner and other stakeholders have worked together – a model for other provinces. Well done.

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