Recruits taught ABCs of firefighting


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June 16, 2016 12:00 AM

Volunteer firefighters from eight communities met up in Vermilion on Sunday to undergo the final session of the S800 industrial firefighting course, which makes graduates 1001 professional firefighters under the Nation Fire Protection Association.

Half a dozen men and women, decked out in thick yellow protective gear, hold the front end of a heavy, pulsating fire hose while it sprays gallons of water toward a scorching propane fire.
Another half dozen hold the back end, all of them surging slowly forward toward the blaze like a Roman phalanx.
This is part of the final training session for the S800 industrial firefighting course that County of Vermilion River (CVR) volunteers needed to become National Fire Protection Association 1001 professional firefighters.
“You can see how they’re stepping into the prop right there,” said Cameron Stevenson, one of the fire training officers onsite.
The trainees are still pushing steadily forward, holding tight and working the water to manipulate the fireball spewing out of a controlled prop valve in a large steel frame, which simulates an industrial site. 
“The goal is to get capture around the burning appliance, so they’re controlling it, pushing the fire away from themselves, then they’re going to turn the valve off.,” Stevenson said.
This final session, that took place Sunday in Vermilion, is the culmination of 12 weeklong courses the 30 or so volunteers had to take before putting them in the same standings as the best of the best in all of North america.
The classroom component had finished and the aspiring fighters were put in live fire situations, running up steel steps and extinguishing flames on props like industrial refineries, learning how to put out large hydrocarbon fires like well blowouts and tanker trucks on fire.
The volunteers hailed from the communities of Blackfoot, Clandonald, Isley, Vermilion, Paradise Valley, Mannville, Wainwright, Marwayne and the rural municipality of Britannia Wilton. 
“Most of these guys, like my five rookies out of Clandonald, have finished this in two and a half years,” said Terry Stachniack, fire training coordinator for CVR.
“If you multiply that, that’s 40 hours per course, times 12 in two years; it’s a huge commitment, we’re not skimping.”
Stachniack also spoke to the dedication of the volunteers, mentioning many give up birthdays and use holiday time to work on training.
None of them get payed to take the courses, which are funded in large part by the county that puts in roughly $80,000 a year, with some other funding coming from provincial grants.
He said the men and women who become firefighters are there because they want to be, and like other volunteers who work with causes like the MS Society or Cancer Society, they pick one thing to give back to their communities and put their all into it.
Orest Popil, director of fire and emergency services for CVR, said providing this training is also invaluable to the respective communities the students hail from.
“It gives the ratepayers exceptional firefighting protection because now we have well-equipped and well-trained personnel,” Popil said.
“Gone are the days of the bucket brigade; the level that these people are competent in before they even engage in this dangerous work (is substantial).”
The training not only helps firefighters to better protect the communities they serve, but gives them the know-how to use the firefighting equipment properly, which may seem like a no brainer, but can come at quite a cost if done in a shoddy manner.
Popil said there’s a skill set one has to have to operate the equipment, and in the past when volunteers may not have had those skills, resulting damages could come with repair bills up in the five figure mark.
“In the past these untrained people didn’t know how to handle pumps on trucks properly, or whatever, and they’d have to be repaired for $10,000 because they didn’t engage the pumps properly or didn’t know how to open hydrants,” he said.
“So we’ve minimized damages to equipment; but the key is safer, more efficient firefighting.”
CVM has been offering this training for nearly 20 years to put as many pro firefighters in the county as possible, enhancing services for residents.
“It gives better service to the rate payers and makes our firefighters that much more safety conscious— we don’t need anybody getting injured on the job,” he said.

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