Toronto crews contain six-alarm fire

Toronto crews contain six-alarm fire

The six-alarm fire in Toronto is under control; more than 100 firefighters fought the blaze that began Tuesday morning at the Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto. (Photo by Larry Thorne).

Editor's blog

Editor's blog

It’s complicated, this two-hatter issue. But, as Laura King writes, the gist of it is this: an American-based trade union is denying its members the freedom that other Canadians have to work and do what they want in their spare time.

Fighting the fentanyl crisis

Fighting the fentanyl crisis

No one signs up to be a firefighter to do what crews on Vancouver’s downtown east side do every day: administer lifesaving anti-overdose drugs to opioid users – sometimes several times a day and sometimes to the same user twice in one shift.

Fit for Duty: January 2017

Fit for Duty: January 2017

As Sherry Dean writes, a high-intensity Tabata interval workout will raise your heart rate and make four minutes seem like four hours.

Extrication tips: January 2017

Extrication tips: January 2017

When it comes to extrication techniques, starting from the beginning isn’t a bad idea. As Canadian Firefighter’s new extrication writer Chad Roberts writes, starting from the beginning should be considered a building block for success and understanding.

Jan. 19, 2017, Toronto -  It’s complicated, this two-hatter issue. But the gist of it is this: an American-based trade union is denying its members the freedom that other Canadians have to work and do what they want in their spare time – build decks, plow snow, fix plumbing, be volunteer/part-time firefighters in their home communities.The union – the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) – on Monday tried four of its members who work full time in Mississauga, Ont., and also work part time¬ in Halton Hills, a community northwest of Toronto with a composite fire department.The IAFF constitution prohibits secondary employment – it forbids firefighters from working part time in another union shop (as firefighters, paramedics or public-safety officers), and members who do so are disciplined for violating an oath. Oddly, the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association allows, by its own count, about 1,000 of its members to work as paramedics, without reprisal. Monday’s session ¬– an internal trial board hearing ¬– was closed; Mississauga’s past union president Mark Train, who sometimes represents the union in legal matters, declined to discuss details, saying the process has not concluded and, “as such I will not comment on the matter.”The hearing started and ended Monday but the trial board has a period of time during which to mete out penalties. One of the four firefighters on trail admitted to violating the IAFF constitution and resigned Monday night from the Halton Hills Fire Department. The penalty being considered for the other firefighters is a $1,000 initial fine followed by monthly levies of $500, and another $500 for every six months during which the part-time activities continue – a fairly blunt deterrent. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the union would revoke the two-hatters’ memberships, thereby potentially affecting their full-time jobs; most collective agreements require municipalities to employ only firefighters who are associatin members, and the IAFF has pressed towns and cities to terminate firefighters who have been dismissed from the union.The Halton Hills firefighters represented themselves at Monday’s hearing – legal counsel was not provided; in fact, the municipality is eliminating two-hatters through attrition, and has declined to hire two hatters for its part-time roster since 2011 in anticipation of union action.That’s in contrast to Caledon, Ont., a large, composite department with 22 unionized career firefighters and more than 250 volunteers. Some Brampton firefighters who work part time in Caledon received letters from their locals in the fall, making it clear that there would be repercussions if they continued to respond to calls as two-hatters. Some two-hatters handed in their pagers but the issue is ongoing. Town of Caledon management is supporting the two-hatters and providing legal counsel. And that may lead to the test of Bill 109, which was introduced by the governing Liberals and passed in 2016; it amended Ontario’s Fire Protection and Prevention Act to include a non-discrimination clause meant to ensure that full-time firefighters can also work part time in their smaller, home communities. But there’s politics at play. Ontario’s IAFF members, of course, roundly backed Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals during the 2014 provincial election; if Bill 109 is, indeed, tested, and holds up to scrutiny, that sea of support could evaporate. While the IAFF is American-based, the two-hatter issue arises only if charges are laid by a member of the offending firefighter’s home local, or by someone else affected by the two-hatting activity. I’m at a bit of a loss to understand how unionized firefighters in Mississauga are affected by their colleagues’ part-time employment in Halton Hills, but maybe I’m missing something.And, in what seems to be a conflicting philosophy, the OPFFA’s fire-paramedic proposal would allow members who are both firefighters and paramedics to administer symptom relief to patients at medical calls; critics claim the plan is simply a way to ensure firefighter jobs. Read between the lines.
Jan. 4, 2017, Slave Lake, Alta. -  Run of the mill calls, or are they?It was 10 p.m. on a cold Wednesday night in November and the tones went off for a vehicle fire in the southwest part of town. Just another vehicle fire, I thought. Upon arrival our Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service duty officer (someone covers the area 24/7 with a command vehicle that goes out before crews) saw a small amount of smoke coming from the front of a vehicle that was crashed into the front of a mobile home. The calls to the hall were hurried and crews could tell that the situation was more than a typical vehicle fire. With temperatures at -23 C and the wind 30 km/h out of the northwest, this was destined to be a cold fight.On arrival, firefighters hurried to their positions and started the attack on the SUV fire that by now (seven minutes into call) was starting to spread into the corner of the mobile home it was smashed into. With the SUV and the trailer on fire, a second hose was deployed and more resources were called to the scene. This particular mobile home was located in a tight cul-de-sac and parking was at a premium – the structure was flanked on one side by a house and on the other by an open lot (which firefighters had been at the previous month for a struck gas line). The firefighters started dousing the flames in the vehicle, while the second crew set up for the mobile-home fire. Just as things were getting really exciting, a most peculiar thing happened . . . the SUV started rolling down the driveway and out into the road, slowly at first and then picking up speed as it left the driveway and went out into the cul-de-sac. This flaming vehicle headed past firefighters with flames dancing, and ended up just 10 feet from the side of our brand new, $500,000 custom-cab truck!Firefighters standing by tried to slow the roll, and firefighters moved hose lines and attacked the fire with new vigour as the very truck that brought them was threatened. At the same time, the mobile-home fire had reached the soffits (plastic no less) and moved into the attic space. On this newer style mobile home, the new, vaulted ceiling left small, cut up, awkward attic spaces and the fire was hard to follow.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriabfaa586171 The weather made every attempt to stop us, freezing up masks, turning water to ice to get the vehicle moving backwards, freezing up nozzles and firefighters alike. Command ordered an aggressive interior attack and vented the attic space and pulled drywall ahead of the fire. Firefighters held the fire at the halfway mark despite the overwhelming weather odds, and the close call out front. Insulation froze to everything, leaving firefighters looking like half-plucked chickens. Masks were frozen, and were later removed while overhaul continued (there was great air movement and all smoke and off gassing was removed by natural ventilation). Firefighters tried seeing through iced and fogged visors and safety glasses but, in the end, two were treated for debris in their eyes. Not a great outcome and as many judge, others who know and have been there understand.As the fires were brought under control, the investigation started and as weird as this call was, the reason it started followed right along. A kid in the house (14 years old) with a learner’s driving license, had decided that a trip to the store (three blocks away) had to be by SUV on this cold night. After warming the SUV, she decided to back out of the driveway – while the SUV was in drive. After slamming into the mobile home, she ran inside and alerted the other occupants. As the others were leaving, the SUV had already caught fire. Hard decision after hard decision combined with freezing temperatures, and wind that blew right through us, made this a fire for the record books. Seventeen firefighters on four trucks spent three hours gaining an upper hand on these fires. Many rotating shifts and a crafty crew familiar with cold-weather events got us to this positive outcome. It didn’t hurt that we had spare gloves, toques, and Tim Hortons to keep us warm.To me the lesson this night was be prepared – have dry clothes, bad-weather SOGS, and firefighters who can adapt quickly and efficiently. Calls like this should remind us all of those long cold nights on which the satisfaction of a job well done, and the community of the fire service, are all that can keep us warm.Jamie Coutts is chief of the Greater Slave Lake Regional Fire Service and a regular contributor to Fire Fighting in Canada / Canadian Firefighter. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @chiefcoutts
Nov. 24, 2016, Niagara Falls, Ont. – Sometimes, as an objective and trained observer, it’s fascinating to be the proverbial fly on the wall, to gather information, filter the rhetoric, and over time, give readers a clear and contextual picture of fire-service issues. That’s what I’m doing (or trying to do, despite some obstacles) this week, at the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) mid-term conference in Niagara Falls. While the OAFC unveiled the basics of its new strategic plan Wednesday morning – enhanced communication, revenue generation, government relations, and members services are at the crux of the document – it is, of course, what’s going on in the background that has people talking. While the OAFC is getting its ducks in a row for its four-year plan– more detail was provided and approval sought from members in Thursday’s closed businesses session – the much larger, better organized Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) is ensconced in its legislative conference at Queen’s Park, and it has the ear of the governing Liberals. Although the chiefs association has made considerable strides in government relations recently, the better-financed OPFFA, with a strong presence at the legislature and 13,000 boots on the ground, is, as OAFC executive vice-president Rick Arnel noted Wednesday morning, simply, better resourced. Again this week, the union has caused a bit of a kerfuffle with its fire-medic-turned-fire-paramedic-turned-patients-first proposal, about which the government is asking municipalities for input, and about which the chiefs have not been consulted by government. The two associations met earlier this week; OPFFA president Rob Hyndman and others, with the OAFC board, to pitch the IAFF’s new fire-ground survival protocol; the two groups have also discussed other issues, including the ever-frustrating two-hatter controversy, of which Brampton and Caledon firefighters are the most recent targets. Several people have said this week that Tuesday’s chiefs-union get together was productive and that the two associations can, indeed, work well together on issues. Save, perhaps, the fire-paramedic situation. Bizarrely, the government issued a discussion paper on Monday titled Patients First: Expanding Medical Responses, which, ostensibly, addresses challenges with land-ambulance service and promotes the OPFFA’s proposal to give expanded duties to firefighters who are also employed as paramedics, in a tiered-response situation (it’s not clear how many firefighters also work as paramedics). According to the discussion paper, this approach would be voluntary for municipalities. Any changes, of course, to firefighters’ roles, require amendments to the Fire Protection and Prevention Act. Essentially, the government wants input about the fire-paramedic proposal “to determine service viability and opportunities.” Ontario, of course, post-amalgamation in 1998, has three tiers of government: municipal, regional and provincial. Fire is municipally funded; EMS is regional. And according to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), that complicates things. The government document includes no financials, organizational or operations details. Simply, this: “There are three levels of paramedic scope of practice in Ontario. The ministry is exploring the potential option to allow eligible municipalities to choose to allow full-time firefighter to provide care up to the first level (primary care paramedic level).” A companion document – a lengthy survey being sent to stakeholders, including municipalities – however, makes it clear that any new costs would be municipal responsibilities. “Funding responsibility of the optional service will remain at 100% municipal cost,” the survey documents says. “The proposal would be an optional approach that municipalities can choose to implement at councils’ discretion based upon local decision and needs.” AMO has consistently opposed the fire-medic proposal, since it was first introduced in March 2015. “Municipal governments are deeply concerned about the direct and significant impact of the proposal on municipal emergency services, both financially and operationally,” AMO says on its website. “We will read the [government] discussion paper carefully, but to date, there has been no evidence or cost-benefit analysis seen that shows such an approach would improve patient outcomes.” More bluntly, AMO says that given the lack of evidence, it’s flummoxed that the proposal is a provincial priority given that municipalities would bear all the costs., labour challenges, and risks. “Fire services are 100 [per cent] funded by municipalities and only an elected municipal council has the authority to determine the level and type of fire protection services needed by its community,” AMO says. “We are also concerned that if any municipal council agrees to this proposal it would be replicated throughout Ontario by the current interest arbitration system.” Instead, AMO says, it wants the government to redevelop land-ambulance dispatch to improve patient outcomes. To a fly on the wall and an objective and trained observer, it’s interesting to hear the chatter about issues of the day: frustration that on the one hand, some union members refuse to allow their brethren work as part-time firefighters in their home municipalities, but on the other, could be seen to be impinging on another trade union to guarantee themselves employment longevity.          
Nov. 23, 2016, Niagara Falls, Ont. - Not once, in Fire Marshal Ross Nichols’ hour-long address to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs on Wednesday, did he claim to be “working on” the myriad initiatives that fire services across the province are anxious to see come to fruition.
Oct. 26, 2016 – An email landed in my in box last week from the always affable Brent Ross, spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety; Ross was replying to my request for details about the Ontario government’s response to the recommendations from the Elliot Lake inquiry.The gist is this: an RFS – request for service – has been issued for a review of emergency management in Ontario. The successful vendor will be engaged in November (more than two years after the inquiry recommendations were released); the review will begin in December and be completed in the spring (five years after the collapse of the Algo Centre mall); the process includes consultation but it’s not clear with whom.  “As part of the emergency management review,” Ross said in the email, “the incident management system will be reviewed and a way forward developed.” Ontario’s incident management system is a weighty document developed years ago with good intentions but it fails to suit the province’s myriad fire-department configurations and staffing models – career, composite, volunteer, urban, suburban, rural – and needs an overhaul.With emergency management becoming more relevant given weather events and security issues, it will be interesting to see how the review deals with a key recommendation of Elliot Lake Commissioner Paul Belanger, specifically, to steer clear of unified command.“There should be only one person in overall charge of a response; a ‘unified command’ structure should be avoided,” Belanger wrote in his final report from the inquiry. Yet emergency services across the province are training on responses to major incidents using unified command. Last week in Mississauga, police, fire and EMS personnel used unified command in an exercise that simulated an attack on a pipeline; and a few weeks ago in East Gwillimbury, unified command was embraced in a tri-services an exercise involving a threat.Belanger’s logic is as follows: “One final decision maker is essential to avoid conflicts or impasses caused by failure to reach a consensus. The concept of a unified command structure intrinsically contradicts the unity of command doctrine because it fails to ensure that decisions are made by someone who is ultimately responsible and accountable.”Indeed, to make his point, Belanger quotes the testimony of Dan Hefkey, the former Commissioner of Community Safety, who helped to write the provincial IMS doctrine.“So, under unified command, it is operating on the assumption that . . . I don’t know everything you know and you don’t know everything I know, so we are dependent, co-dependent, as a result that’s why you have a unified command,” Hefkey said. “And it then, when you enter into that agreement . . . there is no supreme arbiter to things; you and I are committing to commanding this incident jointly so that we can come to a mutually acceptable conclusion, so that your interests and my priorities are all met . . .  But. . . it’s not clean and it’s not to say that you’re going to have harmony one hundred per cent of the time. There are times when there are disagreement but when you decide that you are entering into a unified command arrangement that’s what you are doing.” Question: “A course of action between the two leaders of a unified command, assuming it is two, to disagree is not acceptable, correct?Hefkey: “No, they can disagree.” Question: “Sorry, if the disagreement results in no decision being made?”Hefkey: “That’s unacceptable.”Question: “That’s unacceptable?”Hefkey: “Absolutely correct.” Question: “You, in that particular case you would have dysfunctional unified command?”Hefkey. “That’s correct.” “As I have indicated,” Belanger said in the report, “the unified command structure is not well understood by the men and women who have to work with it on a regular basis. This difficulty is, in my view, because they understand that a system which allows for the possibility of clashing or inconsistent decisions, is unworkable.”Essentially, the commissioner said, the province’s incident-management system should be amended to eliminate the unified command model and require one incident commander “at all times.”According to Brent Ross, once the emergency management and IMS consultation/review is completed in the spring, the ministry will develop proposals to government in response to the review findings. I expect Commissioner Belanger will be watching, with interest.
Oct. 18, 2016, Toronto – I waited and watched and, sure enough, Friday afternoon, the Ontario government posted an update about the recommendations from the inquiry into the Elliot Lake mall collapse and the emergency response to it. It’s a brief – and rather vague – document. There were, you’ll recall, 71 recommendations in the Oct. 14, 2014, inquiry report – many dealing with building inspections and inspectors (the government has, indeed, done some work in those areas), and 31 specific to emergency management. There are, in the emergency-response section of the press release, nine updates, the first, of course, being a review of emergency management and the provincial incident management system.  The mall collapsed June 23, 2012; the inquiry convened in August 2013; and the recommendations were released two years ago. Lest I sound like a broken record, some context: In that time, the province of British Columbia – buoyed by a handful of dogged chief fire officers – released a comprehensive report by its fire-services liaison group, created new minimum training standards, developed the Structure Firefighters Competency and Training Playbook, and passed the new Fire Safety Act. There are lots of action words in the Ontario government’s press release – reviewing, developing, increasing, strengthening, ensuring, exploring, engaging – all in the present tense, all ongoing, all yet to be completed. For example, “Reviewing Ontario’s emergency management and incident management systems to further enhance and improve the province’s ability to respond to emergencies.”No details are provided and, as far as I’m aware, little has changed. (I’m waiting for an email reply from the Office of the Fire Marshal, specifically about the status of the emergency-management and IMS reviews.) Certainly there had been talk about committees and sub committees and both review processes, but nothing has come to fruition.Indeed, the government web page about Ontario’s incident-management system still links to the 2008 provincial IMS doctrine, as it’s known, and which inquiry witnesses called unwieldy and impractical.Why the slower-than-the-speed-of-government response? Let’s review. In August 2013, the Office of the Fire Marshal merged with Emergency Management Ontario. The mandate of the combined agency was (note the past tense) to work with municipal partners to deliver fire-safety and emergency-management programs and services, share expert advice with local decision makers, and support municipal response efforts in emergencies.In August 2015, fire marshal Ted Wieclawek left the office. OPP inspector Ross Nichols was named interim fire marshal in October 2015; his contract has now twice been extended while the government seeks the (apparently elusive) most-qualified candidate.I have witnessed myriad presentations about the reorganization of the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management; like everyone else, I waited and watched for change and progress but was told by various OFMEM officials that the reorganization was extensive and time consuming and that, in the words of the fire marshal, “we’re working on it.”In September in Thunder Bay, Al Suleman, who was director of emergency management with the OFMEM (but is now director of standards, training and public ed), explained that the agency is reorganizing the reorganization (my words, not his) and that the two entities are separating, having found the merger not to their liking – more of an annulment than a divorce given that the marriage was never consummated.  Meantime, updates on other inquiry issues noted in Friday’s press release – urban search and rescue, OPP incident-command training, and helping municipalities handle media during emergencies – are equally vague. It’s interesting, though, that there appears to be more focus on managing the message than managing the emergency.
Sweat runs down my back and my face is clammy with condensation inside my mask. My jeans stick to my legs, and I’m pretty sure the curls I had put in my hair (only an hour before) have melted into slick strands from the heat. No, I’m nowhere near a fire. Rather, I’m literally lying motionless on a floor in full PPE simulating a dummy while the real pros run through extrication techniques. As I watch them, I also fixate on something making a short-winded Darth Vader sound – and I soon realize that the familiar villain’s trademark is actually coming out of my own air mask. I then become increasingly aware of just how much gear is strapped to me, restricting my movements, and I turn my attention to how I’m going to stand up. My typical Saturday morning does not usually begin this way, but this isn’t just any Saturday. It’s Training Day at FESTI, and even with rain in the forecast nearly a hundred participants have arrived before the sun is even up. I was placed in the firefighter survival course for a full day of training, and I am still blown away at the disposition of both volunteer and career firefighters. Though these training drills are likely routine, they are not easy, especially for a rookie like myself. I followed one firefighter into a two level follow-the-hose simulation. Both of us on oxygen and his face covered with a balaclava to replicate black-out conditions. I declined this added effect, but still crawled on hands and knees behind him as he swept around the low-ceilinged room, manoeuvred down a ladder (gracefully I might add) and still continued to ask me, the one who could see, if I was alright. Later, I crawled through a wooden box with hundreds of wires and cords draped through it designed to snag participants. Trying not to look in any direction but the box’s exit, I distracted myself by thinking that this box of cords might make a great game – something along the lines of an amped up Twister that you could play with friends (I host great parties…). Then I got a little tangled, and it hit me; this type of seriously sticky situation can actually happen, but with fire and smoke looming around the corner. Throw in the possibility that the firefighter may also be low on oxygen, injured or unable to get free and it’s enough to send anyone into a panic. Ditching my interactive game making goals, I pulled myself out of the box and emerged with a heightened awareness of what these people may endure on any given day. I watched as my group blindly crawled through a maze blockaded with furniture, a trap door and low hanging wires. I observed teams of two calmly working together to find their oxygen packs inside a series of metal cages. Drenched in sweat, these guys did not run to the exit to breath fresh air when the task was complete, and instead were eager to review what they could improve upon in the future. I’ve found that completing detailed work in heavy gear by coupling patience with brute force is a far from glamorous job, and not something that everyone is able to do. I quickly learned that a willing personality will only get you so far in this business, especially if you’re a lanky writer, with minor claustrophobia, who’s idea of exercise is a walk around the block. Appreciation is an understatement, but also a word I didn’t realize could mean so much. 
Sept. 13, 2016, Thunder Bay, Ont. – What always strikes me at firefighter training weekends is the desire of the participants to learn – for the most part, they are volunteers who take vacation days, cover their own registration and drive for hours, no expenses paid. But while the focus at FireCon Friday and Saturday was hands-on-training for firefighters, talk in meeting rooms and hallways was equally enlightening. Mentions of training to the “gold standard,” a now ubiquitous phrase used by the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association in a battle over staffing in Sault Ste. Marie; the absence of the fire marshal at the premier training event in the northwest; the lack of action by the OFM on recommendations from a fire-fatalities inquest; the OPFFA’s firefighter-paramedic proposal, and an upcoming “minister’s table” consultation process; adequacy standards; the separation (after only a brief union) of the offices of the fire marshal and emergency management – all fodder for discussion and debate. While Fire Marshal Ross Nichols’ absence due to the Canadian Fallen Firefighter Foundation memorial in Ottawa was excused by some (the OFMEM hosted the weekend), the span between Thursday’s FireCon opening and weekend events in Ottawa was noted by others. That the OFMEM sent Al Suleman, director/deputy of prevention and risk management, was nice – Suleman is personable and extremely knowledgeable – but the decision was perceived by some of the 250 FireCon participants to mean that the needs and concerns of the northwest’s fire services are secondary. Suleman’s presentation Friday morning to delegates in the FireCon leadership track was thorough. Among other things, Suleman outlined inquest recommendations from May that have yet to be considered (there will be more information in a month or so, he said); and he explained the rationale for the short-lived marriage of the offices of the fire marshal and emergency management that occurred with considerable bureaucratic fanfare in 2013. “It ended up diluting both the fire side and the EMO side,” Suleman said. “Emergency management and fire are distinct.” Hence the ongoing reorganization – the reorganization of the reorganization – at the OFMEM that has seemingly been the focus of the office rather than the provision of “leadership and expertise in the reduction and elimination” of hazards to public safety, as is its mandate. “We’ve made some adjustments to the org[anizational] chart,” Suleman said, “with dedicated business lines for emergency management and for fire.” Suleman noted that Fire Marshal Nichols, who has been seconded from the Ontario Provincial Police and who declared in May that he would happily continue for another year as interim fire marshal, has had his contract extended for six months while the province looks for a full-time replacement – which makes one wonder what the powers that be have been doing about that for last year. While the politics of fire-service delivery in Ontario was the topic of much after-hours discussion in Thunder Bay, there’s no doubt many FireCon delegates were oblivious to the banter, focused instead on training in public ed, auto and big-rig extrication, firefighter survival, search and rescue, propane fires, training-officer development and SCBA/PPE proficiency. Their frustration is more likely to be founded in the lack of available and accessible funding, training and testing – mind you there are ongoing efforts by several agencies and others to improve all of those. Still, it’s rather a bitter pill to swallow for volunteers who take vacation days, cover their own registration and drive for hours, no expenses paid.
Aug. 30 2016, Toronto – Talk about a hornet’s nest. If you haven’t been following, the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) is upset about a plan in Sault Ste. Marie to reduce the number of front-line, municipal firefighters by 20 over three years (that’s 25 per cent), through attrition, and increase the number of paramedics, given the volume of medical calls.
July 5, 2015, Toronto – Finally! After nine years of attending conferences from coast to coast, members of the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association (MFCA) meet next week . . . in my home town, Sydney, N.S.It's a semi family affair: my cousin is the deputy chief of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Fire Service, my sister's brother in law (or my brother in law's brother) is the chief of the neighbouring volunteer Glace Bay Fire Department; the deputy fire marshal (who is also the parade marshal for Sunday's memorial march) learned fire investigating from . . . my dad, who, through his lengthy insurance-adjusting career, knows pretty much everyone who has anything to do with fire.What's more, the late Edna DeSanctis – an amazing and extremely smart woman who was the longtime secretary for the Fire Services Association of Nova Scotia, also helped the MFCA; and she worked at D.M. King Adjusters Ltd. for a very long time.It's a family affair in another way, too. Fire Fighting in Canada writers Vince MacKenzie and Tom DeSorcy and I are presenting Volunteer Vision-Live! next Wednesday, and Steve Kraft (a former FFIC columnist) and Bob Kissner, chiefs in Richmond Hill and Kingsville, Ont., respectively, are speaking. If the speakers flop, it's all on me. Yikes! (They won't!)The conference committee is small but mighty – led by Ian McVicar, volunteer deputy chief in Coxheath, whose infectious energy has inspired his team to embrace some extraordinary ideas; I'm sworn to secrecy so you'll have to watch Twitter to find out what Ian has up his sleeve.The MFCA is a regional association (covering the four Atlantic provinces) so it doesn't lobby government, therefore, conferences focus on training and networking rather than political issues.More than 150 delegates are registered, and more than 100 spouses – which makes the conference unique in that the atmosphere is more family vacation with some built-in learning – most chief officers in the region are, of course, volunteers, so the format works. The conference is also open to firefighters.The MFCA conference was last held in Sydney long before I became editor (this is my ninth MFCA conference – Summerside x 3, Lunenburg, Pictou x 2, Fredericton, Yarmouth – I missed Gander in 2012). Having worked closely with the conference committee to add some Cape Breton colour – we've got pipers and musicians lined up, as expected – we also set out early on to focus on quality, all-Canadian education programming. A highlight will be our MFCA Unplugged roundtable/bear-pit session Monday afternoon, on the trade show floor – five panelists and a moderator (yours truly) broadcast onto the big screens in the arena at Centre 200 – the former Sydney Forum, where I spent more hours skating and watching hockey games than I did at school – packed (we hope!) with vendors and delegates.Sydney lacks the beauty of, say, Baddeck or Ingonish – key tourism points on Cape Breton Island – but it has character. The former toxic tar ponds – from years of coal-based runoff from long decommissioned Sydney Steel Corp. – have been transformed into the fabulous and appropriately named Open Hearth Park, where the Kinsmen RibFest happens next weekend; the harbourfront has been rebuilt, with a well-used boardwalk that runs behind Sydney Station 1 and the former Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club, which fell to an arson fire in May 2013. Cruise ships are scheduled into Sydney Harbour every day of the conference, docking near the famous world's largest fiddle (like Sudbury's nickel or Duncan, B.C.'s, big hockey stick), adding a bit of a buzz to the week.The weather, on the other hand, according to Environment Canada's 14-day outlook, is as expected in early July: high teens, a mix of sun and cloud (quite a contrast to this week's heat wave in Toronto).It doesn't matter – a well planned conference (by a great team of Type-A fire-service personalities) with great food, great music, and great speakers (if I do say so myself), in my home town. The trade show opens Sunday afternoon. My long-suppressed Cape Breton accent will be back by supper time.
June 24, 2016, Toronto – I was taken aback yesterday when a builder at the back of the room at the OAFC Home Fire Sprinkler Summit said the information being presented was all new to him – that he'd never heard of NFPA 13D, the standard for sprinklering residential buildings.Residential sprinklers are, of course, optional, so I guess there's some logic to the fact that the gentleman had no clue – to put it bluntly: he had no need to know. Or so I thought.Turns out the gentleman is the CEO of the Ontario Home Builders' Association, so given what I perceived (until yesterday) to have been fairly widespread and consistent fire-service messaging about sprinklers saving lives, it's clear that's not the case.The point of the summit – the first in Canada – was simple: to start a conversation with the people who plan, design and build homes, and, ultimately, to improve life safety.Analogies abounded – seat belts, hockey helmets, and, in particular, air bags, demanded by consumers to keep them safe, and, therefore, embraced by the vehicle industry: safety does sell. The challenge: how to translate that desire for safety on highways to safety at home?Cost, or perceived cost, is a sticking point: NFPA sprinkler guru and myth buster Matt Klaus cited a mere $1.35 a square foot for residential sprinklers but ceded that's in U.S. dollars ($1.72 Canadian), and for multi-unit installations rather than single dwellings or retrofitting. Still, it's affordable – even the builders agreed with that.More myth busting: NFPA 13D is a life-safety standard, not a property-loss standard; and residential sprinklers are different from commercial units – specifically designed to hit walls and drip down onto the myriad combustibles pushed against the four sides of any given room in a typical home, and douse a fire. Sprinklers put out fires, use far less water than a fire hose, and do much less damage.With 100 fire deaths annually in Ontario – a recent inquest examined seven fire fatalities and recommended consultation on sprinklers – what's the hook for the builders?Trade off. In Huntsville, for example, Fire Chief Steve Hernen – the OAFC president – said builders are buying-in, partly because they're getting something in return: higher density housing, waiving of local development charges, more appealing sub-division designs.The key, according to Don Jolley, the fire chief in Pitt Meadows, B.C., is to normalize sprinklers as a critical part of a broader fire-protection system. A Pitt Meadows bylaw passed in 2005 requires sprinklers in most new residential construction – at an average cost, Jolley said, of $1.07 a square foot. Since then, no fire in a residential or commercial building with sprinklers in Pitt Meadows has burned beyond the object of origin; more importantly, there have been no fire deaths in any of those buildings.No one yesterday advocated sprinklers as a replacement for efficient fire-department response. But for developers who hadn't previously seen videos of side-by-side burns or understood 15-minute rural response times, a collective light bulb seemingly came on.There's no need, builders were told, for sprinklers in attics or garages – most fatalities happen in kitchens, family rooms and bedrooms.But to save more lives given factors such as response times and lightweight construction, sprinklers are a necessity."The best builders in the world are not going to stop a smoking fire, or a fire caused by a candle or an arcing wire," Klaus said."I don't care how good you build the home, all I need are oxygen and an ignition source and I have a fire."Smoke alarms work – but children, teenagers, and intoxicated adults sleep through them (builders learned this through videos yesterday), and people take out the batteries. Sprinklers, said Cynthia Ross Tustin, the fire chief in Essa Township and summit chair, are simply plumbing – nothing for builders to fear.Still, as Fire Marshal Ross Nichols told summit participants first thing yesterday morning, change does not come easily.So, then, how to sell safety, and sprinklers, and how to get consumers to buy-in?Ask media strategist Jay Acunzo. Facts and stats are fine, Acunzo said in a presentation about effective messaging, but neither resonates emotionally with homeowners.Essentially, Acunzo said, stop selling sprinklers and sell life safety: hit home buyers in the heart. Be creative.That's a leap for fire-service personnel used to neat stats and facts. But it's clearly necessary, given the wide-eyed builders in the room yesterday.Not to give away Acunzo's shtick, but if you haven't seen it (and need a distraction on a Friday!), Google "Dumb Ways to Die" and watch the YouTube video (or click here). The award-winning Australian public-service announcement for Metro Trains Melbourne is brilliant, different, memorable, and unexpected (apologies – you'll be humming the tune all day!).As Chief Jolley said after the summit wrapped up Thursday afternoon, it'll take time for a para-military organization that generally suppresses creativity to embrace new ideas.Maybe so, but a preventable house fire is, indeed, a dumb way to die.
June 14, 2016, Toronto – The news out of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (OPFFA) conference in Collingwood yesterday – that the province will review the union’s firefighter/primary-care paramedic proposal – is not surprising to those who’ve been paying attention. But it sure hit a nerve.
How many firefighters does it take to redesign your highrise and standpipe-equipped building-operations procedures? It’s a rhetorical question, based on that old lightbulb analogy, because every fire service does things a bit differently.
No one signs up to be a firefighter to do what crews in Vancouver’s downtown east side do every day: administer lifesaving anti-overdose drugs to opioid users – sometimes several times a day and sometimes to the same user twice in one shift.
If you have been following the news you probably are familiar with fentanyl. This drug, also known by it’s generic name sublimaze, is a potent narcotic analgesic that has been used safely for years in clinical medicine, and can be found in hospitals and onboard advance life support (ALS) ambulances.  
It was probably five years into my firefighting days when I showed up to the station for a call and was one of the senior firefighters present: there were no red helmets and no whites to be found just yet, just a bunch of yellow-helmet firefighters looking to go on a call and get the job done. Someone had to ride up front with the driver. The hot seat, as it is so often referred to, was the last one to get filled. So I thought to myself, I can work a radio and I can read a map, so how hard can it be to run a truck? So I jumped in.  
Several years ago, I spent a day at Edmonton Fire Rescue, learning about fire-hall routines and responding to calls with the rescue and pumper crews. My blog from June 25, 2010, tells part of the story: “A call came in for the unglamorous task of unclogging a needle deposit box at a community centre – a task probably not unique to Edmonton Fire but not common to many Canadian departments . . . ”
Most firefighters, officers, or chief officers strive for perfection on the job. Every run that I am on, in whatever role I find myself, I try to perform to the best of my abilities and rely on my training and lessons learned from past experiences. Some of those experiences are mistakes I’ve made. We all slip up now and then, whether we choose to admit it or not. I believe a good leader admits those mistakes, learns from them and moves on.In my first year as an acting captain I made a few funny blunders that prove I’m human. None of those mistakes caused any harm to my crew or myself and really only bruised my new red-helmet ego. When I took the front seat I was aware of my new responsibilities and I knew the time would come when I would serve as an incident commander (IC). The opportunity arrived when my crew was called to a single car motor-vehicle collision with air-bag deployment. I took the IC role and climbed in the first-responding truck with a crew of three. Upon arrival I announced our situation to dispatch and jumped off the truck onto the highway. My second-due apparatus blocked off the north-bound lanes and I called for the same on the south-bound lanes. My crew performed patient care and I obtained information from bystanders. I kept fidgeting with my traffic vest, which read INCIDENT COMMAND on the back in big letters on a reflective background. I couldn’t get the vest to stay latched in the front (I was thinking it was time for a diet plan). One of my firefighters came up and offered to help. Without making too much of a scene he gave me the heads up that my vest was on upside down. We all get a chuckle out of small, funny mistakes that happen during calls. My chiefs said something like: “If that is the worst thing that happened on the scene, we’ll take it.” It takes time to adjust to the role of captain and to feel comfortable riding up front on the first truck. During my first response as IC, the biggest challenge was being hands off. I wanted to grab a hose or the extrication tools and get involved with the tactical operations. Becoming a captain doesn’t mean my hands-on days are over, but it does mean I will sometimes take on the command role. An IC needs to be available to the crews on scene, dispatchers and incoming trucks in order to manage the scene and keep everyone safe. It’s tough to stay separated from the tasks that need to be done, which depend on the type of incident and number of staff. A captain needs to trust his or her crews and to supervise them in a non-micromanaging fashion. You’ve trained alongside your crew members and you know their abilities. Your job is to keep your firefighters safe, to save saveable lives and to stabilize the incident. Sometimes you need to take a couple of deep, calming breaths to keep yourself in the right mind frame to accomplish your priorities. I’m proud to work with the members on my department. I know that even though I am still learning how to lead a scene or supervise at the task level, those members will help me with what needs to be done. If I’m backing up one of my other crew members or chief officers at a scene, I’ll do the same for them. Egos and personalities are set aside during these operations as we all focus on the common goal of resolving the scene.New captains in fire services, don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake. Acknowledgment allows you to learn from that mistake and become a better leader. Your crews should respect your humility and you will, hopefully, not make the same mistake twice. As firefighters, we train as best as we can to make our emergency responses perfect, but we all know the real world throws us curves. We may not obtain perfection on all our calls, but if we aim to be perfect, we should at least come very close and be more than satisfied with our crews’ performance as well as our own.Jason Clark has been a volunteer firefighter in southwestern Ontario since 2007. Having recently made the transition to captain from firefighter, Jason has had a new perspective on roles in the fire service and riding in the front seat.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it    @jacejclark
Life is all about making decisions and as I write this column, I find myself in between the last big decision I made, and the one I’m about to make. I decided in March to leave my full-time job in the planning department with the municipality for which I am a volunteer firefighter. I knew unequivocally at that point that it was time for me to go. My heart wasn’t in it and my spirit had dwindled.Some in my inner circle (OK, my mother) expressed surprise and dismay at me walking away from a secure job with good benefits. No surprise really – I’m 44 and she’s 82 and she still mothers me, but that’s what mothers do, and I’m OK with that. I’m thankful that she’s still here to do it. I knew leaving my job was the right move for me, but what we know in our hearts to be true is sometimes called into question by those we love.Other people assumed that my husband and I were well enough off that I didn’t have to work. After hearing that comment for the second or third time, I matter-of-factly pointed out that we weren’t any better off than anyone else, that this was something I had prepared for financially, and that I would be getting another job at some point. One co-worker in particular gave me all of the support and encouragement she could muster, in spite of losing one of her closest work buddies.So what does my last career decision have to do with fire fighting? I believe that we are all put here for a reason, and that reason is unique for each of us. We all have gifts buried deep within, and it’s our mission to unveil these gifts and offer them to the world. For many of you, the gift that you share found its wings through the serving of others in the role of firefighter, fire-prevention officer, public-information officer, public-education officer, inspector, lieutenant, captain, chief, dispatcher, or any other fire-service role conceivable. You love what you do. You find your work inspiring, motivating and rewarding. You feel it in your soul that it’s what you are called to do, especially when you’ve come to the aid of someone in their time of need, and witnessed the positive effect you’ve had on the lives of – in most cases – strangers.It’s an honour and a privilege to serve in such a way, and it’s an integral part of restoring our faith in humanity. When there is tragedy, we’re told to look for the helpers. As I write this, the wildfire in Fort McMurray is devastating the lives of Albertans – but we bear witness to acts of courage, bravery, love, determination and humanity. On the very worst days of peoples’ lives, they received the very best that people have to offer of themselves – their gifts. Whether it’s a bottle of water, a kind word, or a hug, people gave humanity back to humanity. Tragedies are just that, tragic, but they also provide us with opportunities to bare our souls to others in their times of need. I’ve often struggled with the notion that so many people live their lives in shrouds, behind facades. Why are we so afraid to drop the bravado and just be who we really, truly are? We are vulnerable, honest, caring, compassionate, loving human beings. At our core, we all want the same things: to be loved, acknowledged and accepted for who we are. I believe that we in the fire service do just that when we’re called upon to help others. When firefighters are putting out flames, we are working together as a team with a common goal of stopping the loss. We come together, whether it’s multiple stations, departments, provinces, or entire countries. When we’re performing a rescue, we’re present in the moment, focused on the task at hand; we’re genuine in the words we use with patients and the actions we take to get them to safety. That is what I’m on a mission to do and that’s why I left my job at the township. I am on a mission to live a more authentic, honest, heartfelt life of service. No, I’m not joining a convent, I am simply following my heart and doing the best I can with what I’ve been given – to help humanity in whatever way I’m called to do.I will always be in the fire service, because the love runs far too deeply for me to ever not be, and because I’ve always found a fulfilling connection to the act of helping others. Where life takes me next is anyone’s guess, but as long as I’m using my life as a vehicle for positive intention and sharing my gifts with others for the greater good, I’m OK not knowing.Update: It turns out that my leap of faith led me to a new way of sharing my passion for the fire service – as an instructor at the Ontario Fire College. I’m blessed to be working with a fantastic team of dedicated individuals and grateful to be in a position through which I’m fortunate to meet so many members from throughout the fire service. Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  @georgianbayjen
Sometimes I feel as though I should have been a firefighter in the ’70s when firemen were firemen and we rode on the apparatus tailboards, our senior officers were one generation removed from the war, and folks appeared to be just a whole bunch tougher. These were the times when you were told to suck it up, quit your complaining, and  “Take it like a man.” When veteran firefighters tell stories about what it was like to be on the job back then, I am so proud of our history and a little fearful for our future if we don’t start to understand just where we are going.
All the negative stories regarding fire departments providing first and co-response EMS services have led me to wonder who is being served by not playing nicely in the sandbox. Certainly these us-versus-them situations fail to put the customer. or patient, first. Members of the High Level Fire Department (HLFD) are part of the patient-care process, even when EMS is on scene first. Our system is based on a patient-first philosophy and it works; perhaps other regions can learn from us.High Level, located in northwest Alberta, is a community of just under 4,000 people. With an initial response area including a 40-kilometre  radius of the town as well as highway response 200 kilometres to the north, 100  kilometres to the south, 40  kilometres east and 70 kilometres to the west, the HLFD has a large responsibility. One of those services is medical co-response.The HLFD is part of the Alberta Medical First Response Program, which was developed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) when it took over responsibility for EMS in 2009.  The program has grown and the HLFD is growing along with it. The EMS service in High Level is provided by a contracted service to AHS.  The company, Aeromedical Emergency Services, has a longstanding, great working relationship with the HLFD. The HLFD is a volunteer service with three staff (two full-time equivalents) providing administrative direction and command capability to the more than 35 volunteers. The HLFD has always provided assistance to EMS at a first-response level, but since the development of the Medical First Response (MFR) Program, the working relationship has grown with the service level. Approximately half of the HLFD staff have medical training above first aid; this includes four staff trained as emergency response technicians (EMTs) who are primary-care paramedics, and eight emergency medical responders (EMRs), all of whom are registered with the Alberta College of Paramedics. Another six staff members are trained as first medical responders (FMR), which is similar to an EMR, with 80-hours of classroom training. The majority of the volunteers all have standard first-aid with additional training on spinal immobilization, stretcher operation and oxygen administration, as well the ability to operate the department’s monitors/defibrillators (LP12s). Firefighters have medical training built into weekly training nights, and dedicated medical training nights are scheduled every six weeks for currency training. The HLFD also uses an online learning-management system for additional training. Staff from Aeromedical regularly attend training nights. All new Aeromedical staff meet senior HLFD staff and tour HLFD facilities.The HLFD provides up to basic life support care to first-response calls and carries advanced airways, as well as epinephrine for allergic reactions, ASA for heart attacks, instant glucose, D50W and Glucagon for diabetic emergencies, and Atrovent and Ventolin for respiratory distress. Some medications are approved for use by FMR/EMR staff and the rest are reserved for use by EMT staff.  The department is adding Narcan – an opiate antidote – once training is complete.The HLFD responds to all Delta- and Echo-level calls (potentially life threatening) as well as any call with an ambulance delay of 15 minutes or more. In 2015, EMS calls comprised about 56 per cent of the HLFD call volume (178 calls). This percentage is not uncommon in Alberta, where the majority of MFR programs utilize similar parameters; the difference lies in the proud and seamless working relationship between the two agencies.  When HLFD staff arrive, usually with a crew of between four and six personnel, some firefighters are assigned to assist with patient care with the paramedics, and some ready the stretcher or start preparing whatever device is  required for patient transport. Once on-scene treatment is complete, HLFD members assist with the patient in the ambulance. This may involve starting IVs, taking vitals, assisting with patient airway or anything else that is within the scope of training. HLFD members attend in the back of the ambulance on approximately 75 per cent of co-response calls; this improves patient care and helps firefighters stay current on skills. Once at the hospital, firefighters assist with patient transfer and, when requested, even assist nursing staff. If firefighters are not required to assist at the hospital, the fire crew that follows the ambulance to the hospital will help to ready the ambulance for the next call by preparing the stretcher, cleaning the ambulance interior or assisting where needed to ensure that the EMS crew can have a quick turnaround.  When not training or responding, both services attend social events together and co-operate on joint public presentations. It is this type of community effort and co-operation that shows what can be accomplished when services set aside differences and do what is best for the community.Rodney Schmidt is the fire chief and director of protective services for the Town of High Level, responsible for fire protection in an area spanning more than 37,000 square kilometers in Alberta’s northwest.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
There is a fine line between being at the tipping point and going over. Firefighters in North Vancouver recently found themselves on the line. The first of many 911 calls came in shortly before 05:00 on Monday, July 18. The alarm had been activated at 357 East 2nd Street in the City of North Vancouver, with callers inside the building reporting a  smell of smoke, while neighbours reported visible flames. First alarm assignment was City of North Vancouver Engine 9, Engine 10 and Ladder 10 from the City fire hall as well as District of North Vancouver Engine 6 (spare replacing Quint 2) from District Hall 2. The fire was visible against the pre-dawn sky to the City fire crews responding. Based on what could be seen and with dispatch advising reports of people trapped, Capt. Paul Granger on Engine 9 called for a second alarm while en route. The second alarm would bring District of North Vancouver Engine 1, Rescue 1, Engine 3 and Quint 5 along with West Vancouver Tower 1 (District Tower 1 out of service). Granger established command upon arrival. Built in 1971, 357 East 2nd Street is a wood-frame building with 29 suites on three floors; there are no sprinklers or standpipe, however the fire alarm was upgraded in 2014 and is monitored by a central station. While the building is three storeys at the front, the land drops away to the rear, where the building is five stories high. Lane access to the rear is from the east side only, extending to the parking lot entrance. The rest of the Charlie and Delta sides are city park, with mature trees growing close to the building. Access to the rear is made more challenging by the presence of hydro lines and transformers.City of North Van Chief Dan Pastilli and Assistant Chief Bob Poole were paged out with the initial dispatch as the on-call chief officers. Pastilli quickly realized from the  radio traffic that this was the real deal. Granger had established command upon arrival and he remained as incident commander throughout, with Pastilli assisting him and Poole taking the Charlie side in the lane. The District of North Van Duty chief was the safety officer. RCMP officers on patrol had seen the flames and were working through the lower floors of the building, alerting residents and assisting with the evacuation. Third-floor residents were reporting by phone that they were trapped by heat and smoke. First-arriving firefighters laddered the upper balconies on the street side of the building to remove residents, while flames were pouring out of one suite at the rear of the third floor.  Capt. Kit Little of District E6 and another firefighter attempted to reach residents at the rear of the third floor from an interior stairwell, but upon cracking open the door on the third floor, were driven back by extreme heat. Hydro wires precluded the use of an aerial. A 35-foot ground ladder barely reached the top-floor balcony where an 88-year old woman was trapped by flames. The first firefighter was unable to get high enough on the ladder to safely grab the woman. The six-foot, four-inch Little waved the firefighter down the ladder. Discarding his SCBA and helmet to minimize his weight and maximize his balance, Little still had to balance on the second rung from the top, as four Mounties on the ground steadied the ladder; he was able to stretch out enough to grab the woman and bring her out over the railing and then get down the ladder far enough to pass her off to firefighters on the balcony below. Not done, he went back up the ladder and scooped her little dog to safety. By this time, BC Hydro had arrived and de-energized the lines at the rear of the building.  While the City’s Ladder 10 and West Van’s Tower 1 poured water down from the street side, in the rear District Engine 6 unleashed its deck gun in tandem with Quint 5’s 55-foot ladder pipe. In an interview later, Chief Pistilli described “a very labour-intensive fire” with manpower the key to fighting the fire. Pistilli credits Granger’s quick decision to call the second alarm with getting that manpower in play as soon as possible. The first alarm assignment with three engines and an aerial put 14 firefighters at the scene initially, with the second alarm of two engines, a quint and a rescue from the District along with West Van’s tower adding another 17 personnel on scene in short order. “Enough resources,” said Chief Pistilli, “to allow suppression and rescue operations at the same time.”While the building didn’t have sprinklers or standpipes it did have a firewall that cut the building in half, from east to west. The fire had started on the top floor in the rear on the east side.  A two-and-a-half was run in the front door and two inch-and-a-halves were run off in a garden lay to support for interior operations. A team from the District was able to access the third floor from the west side through a fire door and gained a foothold; then it was a matter of doggedly tearing down ceilings. “It was knocked down in about two and a half hours,” said Pistilli, “and we were at a comfortable spot after about four hours.” Manpower was a consideration as the shift change approached. The decision was made to hold over the City night shift of 10 firefighters as the day shift arrived. With the District holding over some of its firefighters, more than 40 personnel were working on the site. Coverage for the City and District of North Vancouver was left to Engine 4 from the District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver’s four engine companies. Nightshift firefighters were released starting from about 11:00. “It was their first night shift and we had to give them time to rest before coming back to work that night,” said Pistillli. The decision to hold over the night shift was  based on the time; earlier in the shift, it would have required an overtime callback to build up the required personnel. There was one fatality in the fire. Later in the day, as firefighters were working through the suite in which the fire started, a badly burned body was discovered. Information provided to firefighters at the time of their arrival had been that the resident of the suite was out of town.  Preliminary investigation suggests that the door to the fire suite may have been opened, accounting for the rapid buildup of smoke and heat through the east half of the third floor, which in turn forced residents to their balconies. Again, Chief Pistilli points out, there were a number of residents who heard the fire alarm, but chose to ignore it. Many who delayed had to be rescued. The firewall not only saved the building, but also saved lives. The upper floors of the Charlie and Delta sides of the west half of the building would have been beyond the reach of ground ladders, and rescuers would have been hindered by trees. The roof design worked in firefighters’ favour: the closed construction prevented the horizontal extension of fire.The fire could have been catastrophic, but several factors worked to prevent that: the firewall was critically important; the role of the RCMP officers in alerting and evacuating residents; the decision to quickly call a second alarm was enabled simultaneous suppression and rescue operations; the decision to hold over the night shift, building up resources and then being able to sustain a concentrated effort to track extensions and hot spots. It’s the little things that keep you from going over the edge.ResponseCity of North Vancouver Fire Rescue Engine 9 Engine 10 Ladder 10 Rescue 10 District of North Vancouver Fire Rescue Hall 1 – Engine 1, Tower 1 (out of service), Rescue 1 Hall 2 – Engine 6 (spare replacing Quint 2) Hall 3 – Engine 3 Hall 4 – Engine 4 Hall 5 – Quint 5 District of West Vancouver Fire Rescue Hall 1 – Engine 1, Tower 1, Rescue 1 Hall 2 – Quint 2 Hall 3 – Engine 3 Hall 4 – Engine 4 357 East 2nd Street – First Alarm City E9, E10, L10, District E6, City duty chief 2nd Alarm District E1, E3, Q5, R1 District duty chief, West Van T1 Firewatch City E11
The phone rings in your fire chief’s office with news that  one of the department’s members has passed away suddenly; it is a line of duty death (LODD). With a sinking heart and eyes full of tears, the chief mourns the loss of one of his firefighters. After getting a grip on emotions, the chief’s mind races frantically over the details that will have to be organized over the next 48 hours.The chief needs to inform the department, contact the family, the funeral home and fire-department chaplain (if the department has one) and make various other arrangements. Depending on the circumstances, the media might also have to be informed. Visitation, funeral and reception details need to be sorted. City police might be enlisted to assist with road closures. Arrangements will have to be made with local hotels to accommodate firefighters from other departments who may want to pay their respects. The overwhelming number of details for which the department is responsible causes the chief to realize how truly unprepared everyone is to effectively handle this situation. Was there a way to reduce this stress and anxiety ahead of time? Can departments be better prepared for such a daunting task? Absolutely. The addition of an honour-guard division to a department puts into place the tools to assist members, and to support each other and the grieving family. The creed of the honour guard is to honour the fallen, remember the traditions and support the families of those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their communities. An honour guard provides stability and guidance, and maintains meaningful practices in the fire service.Components of an honour-guard divisionIn order for an honour-guard division to run smoothly, the following team positions should be in place:A co-ordinator, who is responsible for overseeing all facets of the division and provides guidance and direction to the participating members. The co-ordinator also maintains all communication with the fire chief and relevant parties. This person should be proficient in all elements of communication, including social media.An assistant co-ordinator, who supports the co-ordinator in all duties and responsibilities and acts as acting co-ordinator in the co-ordinator’s absence.A drill commander, who leads marching drills with a powerful voice and has knowledge of marching commands. The Canadian Forces Drill Manual outlines movements that can be altered to suit individual situations.) Pipes and drums; any members with these musical skills can play for your department or join in with other departments at appropriate opportunities.The colour party generally consists of flags, but axes, pike poles and other firefighting tools can also be used if available.The marching unit comprises members who will march in parades or other special events; it is generally made up of two or more members. All these components come together to create a formal and complete honour-guard division, however, not all of these components are necessary to begin building your team. With just the class-A dress uniform, some strong leadership and commitment, any department can start an honour-guard unit. The Brampton Fire & Emergency Services honour guard began in 1974, wearing simple shirts and ties; don’t be intimidated – you have to start somewhere.Choosing membersThe type of person who will best represent what the honour-guard division is all about is one who carries himself or herself respectfully and demonstrates an appreciation for appearance, etiquette, values and professionalism. These members should go through a probationary period to make sure that they are worthy of the honour of being part of the honour guard. Members of the honour guard should be cognizant of the fact that they represent not only their departments, but also their chiefs, their cities and their country while on duty in their uniforms. These recommendations are guidelines drawn from personal experience; in the end, whether a member becomes part of the honour guard is at the discretion of the co-ordinator.Drills and equipmentDrills, or marching practices, are necessary to maintain precision, unison and cohesiveness in the marching unit. Once a location has been finalized, drills should occur a minimum of once a month. The co-ordinator may determine that more practices are prudent, especially during the building phases of a department’s honour guard. It should be noted that even veteran honour-guard teams meet once a month to maintain their skills. While a gymnasium works perfectly as a practice venue, the apparatus floor can always be used as a parade square. While attendance at practices should not be mandatory, members should be encouraged to attend to achieve consistency and so everyone is well prepared if called to duty. Dividing drills into workshops works well when teaching isolated skills such as  funeral details, visitation and casket details, carrying flags, carrying axes and pike poles,  marching rhythms, patterns and commands, and details pertaining to other special events.It’s important to have certain props on hand so that the honour guard is ready when called upon; these include flags, flag stands, flag holsters, axes, pike poles, white gloves, pipes and drums, and, hopefully, at some point, a special honour-guard uniform separate from the fire-department uniform. The honour-guard co-ordinator should establish a routine for maintenance and safe and accessible storage of these items. There are numerous Canadian websites that sell honour-guard equipment.Events and financesAn established and active honour guard will attend events other than funerals, such as:  City parades Retirement parties Firefighter last-day-at-work march-out Weddings Recruit graduations Local sporting events Mayoral inaugurations Award banquets Charity events Fire-station openings Canada Day celebrations Participating in community events will epitomize your department as an active, contributing and relevant part of your municipality. An honour guard can also participate in funerals outside its own city, province and country. Protocols for attendance at such events need to be established  upon development of an honour-guard team in order to be prepared when a situation arises. These protocols should be created by the co-ordinator and the fire chief.The co-ordinator and the fire chief should also discuss financial support for the honour-guard division and determine the level of funding available from the department. There are, of course, other funding options, including the firefighters association and the municipality. Monies can be used to purchase and maintain equipment, for travel and accommodation at events, and to buy uniforms. However, it should be noted that members might have to pay for room and board when attending events out of town. While this is not ideal, this might be the norm at the building stages of your honour-guard unit.An honour guard can be started without financial support from outside units, simply by wearing a dress uniform and making a commitment to attend local events and firefighter funerals; doing so will promote that idea that the honour guard is an active division in the fire department and within the community, and this visibility may lead to future financial support.In addition to the honour-guard co-ordinators, it is a good idea to have a responsible and trustworthy member act as treasurer.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria507e536756 Uniforms and rulesA standard class-A tunic provided to firefighters at graduation can be worn as an honour-guard uniform. The addition of white gloves, a rope lanyard placed on the left shoulder, and perhaps a polished boot or tuxedo shoe will enhance the look and distinguish honour-guard members from other firefighters. Purchasing a custom uniform comes with time and money. Rules, while in uniform, are different then when not in uniform. Once the uniform is on, members should not chew gum or monitor cell phone use; hat protocols should be practiced (indoors and outdoors). In addition, members should maintain a clean, tidy appearance, and carry themselves professionally as representatives of their professions, cities and departments.For more information and direction about establishing an honour-guard division, look to a neighbouring department that has an active honour guard. There is also an opportunity to gather information at the third annual Canadian honour-guard convention in Niagara Falls this spring (http://www.hgconvention.com).The traditions of the fire service are maintained through an honour guard. The Latin phrase Semper paratus means always ready. The responsibility of an honour guard to its department is to continue to practise and maintain fire-service traditions and to represent the department with honour, integrity, pride and professionalism at all events and opportunities.  Being ready when duty calls, and being able to adapt quickly, are key characteristics of a polished honour guard. When you have an active and present honour guard, all who come in contact with its members will appreciate the dignified and professional presence.Charlie Martin, who founded Brampton’s honour guard, said, “Never let our honour guard die.” I am doing my best to fulfill his request and inspire others to do the same.Components   of an honour-guard division Co-ordinator – overseees all facets of the divison; provides guidance and direction to members . Assistant co-ordinator – supports the co-ordinator in all duties and responsibiities; becomes acting co-ordinator when necessary. Pipes and drums – any member with these musical skills can play for your department Colour party – consists of flags, axes, pike pokes and other fire fighting tools Marching unit – all interested department members can participate through this unit Jordan Paris has been a full-time firefighter for 18 years a proud member of the Brampton Fire & Emergency Services ceremonial honour guard for 12 years, serving the last two as co-ordinator and commander. He can be reached at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
One has only to consider pop culture to conclude that the thin line of appropriateness has changed significantly in the past 20 years – from movies such as Deadpool and The Hangover, to Cards Against Humanity, to the acceptable words allowed on mainstream television.A single episode of Game of Thrones raises (or lowers?) the benchmark of graphic violence on screen. Fifty Shades of Grey floated topics to the pop-culture surface that were previously considered downright deviant. It’s no wonder that the fire service struggles to balance its feet on that fine line between what grabs people’s attention and what puts them off. As we yearn to adopt the approach of corporations that have successfully lured audiences with racy, sexy, raunchy and borderline offensive campaigns, our mindful gaze also recognizes that the red tape of municipal professionalism demands a high level of G-rated, approved-for-all-audiences messaging. This precariously thin line is also the difference between messaging that is skipped over by the people we are trying to reach, and campaigns or promotions that prompt behaviour changes. In case you’re asking, “Why does it matter?” look no further than movements such as the ALS ice-bucket challenge or the recent Pokemon Go craze to see that when something is new and cool, it prompts people to act. In our case, we want to prompt mom or dad to insist on a home-escape plan, Sally to check her smoke alarm or Tom to replace his expired CO alarm.  How does a fire department balance on that line? Good news: there are companies that do this with everything they produce; they create G-rated products that kids go crazy about, and cleverly insert just the right dash of adult-oriented content; they have names such as Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. You can sit with the whole family to watch Shrek, Finding Nemo and Toy Story; the kids will laugh at the characters’ antics, but the parents will catch the clever adult-humour insertions that have become a go-to ingredient for production companies. Toy Story is one of the most successful family movie franchises and is also brimming with parent-geared messaging. When Bo Peep says to Woody, “Whadda ya say I get someone else to watch the sheep tonight?” we all know what Bo Peep means. In the mutant-toys scene, when they come alive in front of toy-bully Sid, Woody turns his head 360 degrees, a comical tribute to the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. Family movies today are packed with adult-oriented punchlines and references in disguise (in Despicable Me, under the sign identifying the Bank of Evil, it states “Formerly Lehman Brothers”). Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks realized a long time ago that while the target audience for their movies is primary-school-aged children, those audience members don’t go to theatres by themselves – they are always accompanied by parents or older siblings.  Movie studios also realized during the VHS and DVD eras that if they had any hope of parents wanting to bring those movies into their homes, the parents must not mind watching. Lessons I have learned: Messaging approved for all audiences does not have to be boring, nor does it have to appeal only to toddlers Public-education programs and events need to offer something for everyone We can balance on the line by being creative and clever in our messaging Stale, generic messaging will not prompt anyone to act; we have to present stuff that is new and cool We don’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are plenty of ways to piggyback on pop culture and still get the message across Applying the lessonsIt seems unattended cooking is still a big problem. Unfortunately, the generic “Watch what you heat” messaging doesn’t seem to capture people’s attention. So, using a little creativity-and-clever-humour disguise, maybe we can twist the message into something that elicits a response. Post a tweet featuring a photo of a romantic dinner for two, a second photo of a pot on a stove, and a third of a house on fire, accompanied by the message “There are great ways to heat up a romance. Unattended cooking isn’t one of them.” Chances are good that the message will be retweeted by people other than just fire-service colleagues. Post a similar message about flameless candles.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriaf287e15266 Pop culture offers so many funny examples of events gone wrong. For example, instead of issuing the same old water-your-Christmas-tree message, insert an image from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie and tease people about ensuring they have a Griswold-free holiday season (and add the watering tree tip afterward). Or say something about making sure cousin Eddie is the only unwanted guest this holiday season by ensuring you have working CO and smoke alarms. Humour is the quickest and most powerful way to engage an audience. Production companies such as Disney have proven that there are ways to produce a message approved for all audiences but that captures the attention of those who are responsible for taking action, such as buying a DVD or changing a smoke alarm battery. While fire services many never experience their own super-cool movements, there are plenty of opportunities to capitalize on fads and crazes and twist our messages into something new and cool.If only Nintendo had included “Carry Pikachu home and test your smoke alarms” in its Pokemon Go game.
One of my favourite parts of ushering in a new year is reflecting on goals set 12 months ago, reliving the accomplishments, and perhaps, reviewing the misses. Just like the first day of the NHL season, the new year is a fresh start, and everyone has a chance to win the Stanley Cup!
Our department has just completed a training program with our recruits. The program lasted three months, and a significant component was a daily physical workout at 7 a.m., rain or shine. Although the day’s training can be rigorous, the morning routines included runs, circuits, an obstacle course, yoga and mobility.
When discussing optimum wellness for firefighters, we can’t help but include brain health. Mental wellness, Alzheimer’s and other cognitive brain conditions are becoming a major concern for larger segments of the population, including firefighters. As academia and our health-care systems struggle to find medical solutions for these often complicated and chronic brain diseases, research is steering firefighters to nutrients and natural health products to help improve brain function.
Any quality fitness and wellness coach knows there is both an art and a science to guiding the wellness of others. The science is extensive and includes nutritional concepts or exercise physiology, but the art, that’s the human side.As important as the science is, the art entails possibly the most challenging elements of long-term wellness: adherence and compliance. Compliance is properly following the steps of a good wellness plan and adherence is sticking with it over time. These elements are absent either because the person is unaware he or she is making poor wellness choices, or, in most cases, the person knows what he or she should be doing, but is simply unable to see it through. In addition, those who are already fit may have an it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude about wellness deterioration. The reality is that life is an evolution with many hurdles and a decline can happen to many unsuspecting and well-intended firefighters. The difference between a lack of adherence and compliance for civilians and firefighters is the consequences. For firefighters, wellness affects performance and is truly life or death, impacting both their crews and their families.So how do firefighters improve or maintain adherence and compliance? First, we need to understand the depth of firefighter wellness, which is multifaceted and interwoven. Wellness includes fitness, nutrition, sleep, injury prevention, rest and recovery, stress management, flexibility, cardio and cancer prevention. Next, look at the aim and magnitude of personal effort, which is represented as motivation. There are both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to wellness. Intrinsic motivators come from within the individual and for a firefighter can be health, family, performance for crew, performance for customers, life safety and professionalism. Setting an example by modelling for newer firefighters while inspiring others can also motivate. Extrinsic motivators generally come from outside the individual and can include praise or financial rewards, which may not always be as realistic in the public sector. My advice to any firefighter is to make wellness a career-long personal expectation and commitment while continually developing positive and successful habits. You would, of course, keep up your medical or extrication skills, so why not everyday fitness and wellness?There are many possible strategies when it comes to adherence. A wellness plan, especially for firefighters, needs to be meaningful as well as balanced. An unhealthy level of rigidity can prevent long-term success, and dwelling on small setbacks is never helpful. One strategy is creating extrinsic motivators in the form of rewards, which should not always be food. Social support can also increase adherence. Create a team of advocates by speaking with those in your life about the importance of wellness for firefighters and your strategies. Pre-planning can be as important in firefighter wellness as it is in fire fighting. Plan workouts in advance, prepare food and fit sleep into your schedule. Documenting and journaling have been shown to improve adherence and play an active role in systematic progression. Firefighters should use fire-hall downtime effectively by exercising or enacting other wellness concepts at the appropriate level, and balance their wellness during off time; remember that being active is not the same as exercising. Developing a personal ethos can be a constant reminder of individual values, which are your choices that guide your day-to-day actions and influence decisions. Follow and embrace wellness initiatives in your municipality, whether they are employer driven or self-directed. Buy-in was the action step in my first column of this series in the April issue of Canadian Firefighter, which involved understanding the importance of different facets of firefighter wellness and performing a personal inventory on each. The action step for this column is considering compliance strategies as well as goal setting. Set timeframes for both short- and long-term goals, and be sure to look at the different facets of wellness beyond just aesthetics or fitness. It is important, however, not to set too many goals at once. Goals need to be written down and verbalized to a few friends, colleagues or family members in order to improve their effectiveness. In selecting goals make sure you are focused on the specific scope of each element and determine a metric for success; consider your role as a firefighter and as an individual and be sure the goals are reasonable. The greatest firefighting strategies are only effective if executed properly at the task level. The same applies to firefighter wellness; a plan is needed but equally important is that it is effectively followed and maintained. The difference is that a fire may be out in minutes or hours while the passion for firefighter wellness should burn for a whole career.Sean Kingswell is an experienced professional firefighter, personal trainer, fitness coach and the creator of the FIRESAFECADETS program.   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   @firesafecadets
Firefighters’ legs carry them everywhere and do an overwhelming amount of work on fire grounds. Anyone who has hauled larger-diameter hose any distance or climbed any number of stairs is familiar with the burn in the legs and lungs. Having good leg strength and fitness is a huge help to maintaining movement at work. Watch out for the many myths and misconceptions about leg workouts, which can get in the way of improving.Activating your support muscle groups is essential to a well-performed leg exercise. Always practise good form, which will eventually become a natural movement with far lower risk of injury. As with everything we do, our cores fire first. Fitness progress is difficult without a strong core as a foundation. If your back bothers you when you do leg movements it can mean poor core strength or poor positioning. While improving core strength is straightforward, improving form can be a little more difficult or frustrating. It is crucial you do not increase the weight you lift before you overcome the obstacle. Begin every exercise by maintaining a neutral spine (rounding your back increases the likelihood of injury) – this means activating your core and glutes, as well as tracking your knees properly during the entire movement. Some people start with excellent form, but lose control as they move through an exercise, especially when lifting something heavy. If you find yourself rounding your back at the bottom of a squat, lower the weight and/or limit the range of motion until you are able to perform the exercise properly. When it comes to knee angles, the biggest myth is that you should not go below 90 degrees. Knees are designed to go beyond 90 degrees, and studies show there can be far more stress on knees and hips at lower angles than at higher angles. Do you bend your knees more than 90 degrees on the fire ground? Yes. So doesn’t it make sense to work in a safe environment beyond 90 degrees to ensure better form and strength when you are in a riskier situation? The important thing to remember is to work within your capabilities and practice. If you have a pre-existing condition you must work around it safely, but try not to use it as an excuse not to improve. As always, speaking with your physician is a good start, just remember to say you are a firefighter, not a desk worker. You should be prepared for physical work with risk. First, warm up – three to five minutes of your choice, but get warm. Next, do three to five rounds with one-minute intervals for each movement. If you need to rest during any exercise, rest only long enough to get going again. It’s better to keep moving at a slower pace rather than to stop, but if you have to stop, don’t worry, just get right back in as soon as possible.  Run – 200 metres (approximately one minute). Adjust the distance accordingly. If you are not a runner substitute with cardio movement such as skipping, stair climbing (quickly), jumping jacks or running on the spot. Air squats – Keep feet shoulder width apart and aim to get the crease of your hip below your knees. Activate your glutes and keep your knees pushed to the outside. Keep your weight on your heels. Add a light weight or jump to increase intensity. If you jump, soft, cat-like landings only. Side speed skating – Start with your weight on your left leg, lunge hop in the opposite direction, landing on your right leg and bringing the original leg swinging in behind as far as is comfortable (left foot swings in behind right leg and out to right side). Continue side-to-side movement maintaining a low, stable position, which keeps legs activated during the whole exercise. Run – 200 metres. Alternate jumping lunges – Start with one leg in front of the other, knees bent and hands on hips. Jump in the air and switch legs, lowering back knee to just above the ground. Repeat. To increase intensity, raise arms over head and jump a little higher or more quickly. Step/jump-ups (box jumps) – Use hi-vol, stairs or a box. Step from the ground and fully extend hips at the top. Increase intensity by height, weight and speed. Try using one leg for 30 seconds and switching for the last 30 seconds. Run – 200 metres. Deadlift – A minute can be a long time, so use a fairly light weight. Water jugs and hoses work fine. Start with feet shoulder width apart, a neutral spine is imperative (no rounding) and shins as vertical as possible. Activate your glutes and keep knees pressed outward as you did with your squat. Stand and return to starting position. Glute bridge – Lay on your back with one leg bent and one straight. Squeeze your glutes and press your foot on the floor, forcing the body into a raised straight bridge. Return to the ground, but don’t relax fully. Repeat one side for 30 seconds and switch legs. Run 200 metres. Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency. She has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
We have all heard the adage: a family that cooks together, stays together. As a firehouse chef for 16 years, an avid cook at home and a lover of all things food, I couldn’t agree more with this motto.There is something about meal time that brings people together. At home, meals are opportunities for family members to catch up with each other during busy days, to sit and talk without distraction and to reconnect. My wife Andrea and I value every opportunity and make it a priority to sit and enjoy meal time with our children. We love to cook together and we love to eat our creations together. This simple philosophy has built a strong and very happy family, and the reward is evident in our family’s bond. The same philosophy holds true in our fire houses. In the fire service, we pride ourselves on teamwork and unity, whether it is at an emergency scene, community event or in and around our stations. Eating and cooking is part of our firefighter culture and I have seen the immense team-building benefits that result from a platoon cooking together. When all hands are involved in the preparation of a meal, members can easily bond and feel as though they are part of a team. As with a family at home, taking the time to cook, eat and reconnect over a good meal will do your platoon a world of good.To get the biggest rewards out of cooking together you need to get your family or platoon present and involved in the kitchen, whether it is in the prep, chopping or dicing, standing by a pot stirring or mixing, or even on clean-up duty. My most-requested recipes at the fire house and at home all have one common ingredient: they are dishes that are made together. At my fire house perhaps the most-requested meal is my jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos (see recipe). This is one of my favourite meals to make and eat as well. What makes these tacos so special is, of course, the super flavourful crispy-coated fish, but now, after years of making this dish, everyone on my platoon has a hand in making a component. One member makes the pico de gallo, one makes the avocado lime crema, another makes the slaw and Sriracha aioli while a few of us coat and cook the fish. With everyone in the kitchen, we talk, laugh, joke and create something special together, and every member appreciates the process and the final product. My platoon cooks and eats together at every opportunity and I know this, in part, contributes to our strong team bond. At home the same benefits apply. During busy weeknights, my family keeps things simple, yet still takes the time to cook and eat together. Our recipe for mushroom and burrata lasagnette is well worth the minimal effort required. As I prepare the lasagnette, my wife is by my side helping to chop and prep a simple salad. Our children share our passion for cooking and are learning as I did as a boy, watching and helping my family cook. Even the smallest kitchen tasks, such as cracking eggs, measuring flour, mixing and stirring, are exciting and fun for children. Weekends and breakfast are perfect opportunities to create something special with the kids. My recipe for cheesecake pancakes is just right for young chefs in the family to lend a hand and make something they will love to eat.I encourage everyone to embrace the philosophy of families that cook together, stay together, both in your homes and fire houses. Soon the philosophy becomes habit and a way of life.Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario. He was recently featured in Food Network’s Chopped Canada.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   @StationHouseCCo Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos Mushroom and burrata lasagnette Mushroom and burrata lasagnette Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria2e99a9c6f3 Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacosIngredients 1 kg (2 lbs) fresh haddock fillets or any mild whitefish 1 cup flour, seasoned with Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and Old Bay seasoning 2 eggs beaten 2 bags jalapeño kettle chips, crushed Canola or peanut oil Corn tortillas Spicy avocado lime crema Pico de gallo Sriracha aioli  - (See recipes at www.cdnfirefighter.com / health and wellness / nutrition) 1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded Instructions Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a large deep skillet to 350 F. Set up a breading station by having a bowl for each the seasoned flour, beaten eggs and crushed kettle chips. Dust the fish pieces lightly with seasoned flour. Then dip fish into beaten eggs, then toss in the crushed kettle chips pushing down on them to make them stick. Repeat the process with the remaining fish. When your oil is hot enough, fry fish for a couple of minutes per side or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towel and season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve heat the corn tortillas as per package directions. Spread the avocado lime crema on a tortilla and place fried fish on top. Add shredded cabbage and garnish with pico de gallo and Sriracha aioli. Enjoy! Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered baconIngredients 1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced 2 tbsp strawberry jam 2 tbsp maple syrup 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/4 cup buttermilk 1/4 cup vegetable oil + 1 tbsp for cooking 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda Pinch of kosher salt 2 cups chopped frozen cheesecake 1 tbsp butter Butter, confectioners’ sugar or whipped cream, for topping (optional) Maple peppered bacon (directions below) 1 large egg Instructions Mix the strawberries, jam and maple syrup in a small pot and simmer over low heat as you prepare the pancakes. Preheat the oven to 200 F. Pulse the flour, buttermilk, egg, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheesecake pieces, keeping them whole. Melt the butter and the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, pour about 1/4 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake. Cook until bubbly, about four minutes, then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown. Transfer pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Serve topped with the strawberry sauce, and top with butter, confectioners sugar or whipped cream. Maple peppered bacon: Position wire racks on two rimmed baking sheets. Lay one pound bacon in a single layer on the racks and bake seven minutes at 375 F. Brushing bacon with maple syrup and continue baking until caramelized, about 25 minutes, flipping, brushing with syrup and seasoning with pepper every five minutes. Let cool. Enjoy with the pancakes! Mushroom and burrata lasagnetteIngredients 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided 2 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing 1½ pounds mixed mushrooms (such as chanterelle, crimini, and oyster), cut into bite-size pieces Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper 1 large shallot, finely chopped ⅓ cup dry white wine 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves 1 cup ricotta ¼ cup heavy cream 1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped 6 fresh pasta sheets (about 7x5 inches) or 12 dried lasagna noodles 8 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick 1 cup finely grated Parmesan 6 large fresh basil leaves Instructions Preheat oven to 425 F. Heat two tablespoons of the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and starting to crisp, about eight to 10 minutes. Add shallots, wine, thyme and remaining one tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the skillet is dry, about five minutes. Scoop mushrooms into a bowl and set aside. Combine ricotta, cream and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Working in batches, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 30 seconds. (If using dried noodles, cook until al dente.) Transfer noodles to a large-rimmed baking sheet as you go, brushing with oil and overlapping as needed. Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture in a small coquette or ramekin and top with a pasta sheet (if using dried, use two noodles side by side). Spread a large spoonful of ricotta mixture over pasta, scatter some mushrooms over, then add a piece of burrata. Top evenly with some Parmesan and one basil leaf. Repeat layering process (starting with noodles and ending with basil) a few more times; finish with the last of the Parmesan and a grind or two of pepper. Cover lasagnette with foil and bake until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool at least five minutes before serving. Enjoy! Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario. He was recently featured in Food Network’s Chopped Canada.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   @StationHouseCCo
We have all heard the adage: a family that cooks together, stays together. As a firehouse chef for 16 years, an avid cook at home and a lover of all things food, I couldn’t agree more with this motto. There is something about meal time that brings people together. At home, meals are opportunities for family members to catch up with each other during busy days, to sit and talk without distraction and to reconnect. My wife Andrea and I value every opportunity and make it a priority to sit and enjoy meal time with our children. We love to cook together and we love to eat our creations together. This simple philosophy has built a strong and very happy family, and the reward is evident in our family’s bond.The same philosophy holds true in our fire houses. In the fire service, we pride ourselves on teamwork and unity, whether it is at an emergency scene, community event or in and around our stations. Eating and cooking is part of our firefighter culture and I have seen the immense team-building benefits that result from a platoon cooking together. When all hands are involved in the preparation of a meal, members can easily bond and feel as though they are part of a team. As with a family at home, taking the time to cook, eat and reconnect over a good meal will do your platoon a world of good.To get the biggest rewards out of cooking together you need to get your family or platoon present and involved in the kitchen, whether it is in the prep, chopping or dicing, standing by a pot stirring or mixing, or even on clean-up duty. My most-requested recipes at the fire house and at home all have one common ingredient: they are dishes that are made together. At my fire house perhaps the most-requested meal is my jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos (see recipe). This is one of my favourite meals to make and eat as well. What makes these tacos so special is, of course, the super flavourful crispy-coated fish, but now, after years of making this dish, everyone on my platoon has a hand in making a component. One member makes the pico de gallo, one makes the avocado lime crema, another makes the slaw and Sriracha aioli while a few of us coat and cook the fish. With everyone in the kitchen, we talk, laugh, joke and create something special together, and every member appreciates the process and the final product.My platoon cooks and eats together at every opportunity on shift and I know this, in part, contributes to our strong team bond. At home the same benefits apply. During busy weeknights, my family keeps things simple, yet still takes the time to cook and eat together. Our recipe for mushroom and burrata lasagnette (see recipe) is well worth the minimal effort required. As I prepare the lasagnette, my wife is by my side helping to chop and prep a simple salad (see recipe). Our children share our passion for cooking and are learning as I did as a young boy, watching and helping my family cook. Even the smallest kitchen tasks, such as cracking eggs, measuring flour, mixing and stirring, are exciting and fun for children. Weekends and breakfast are perfect opportunities to create something special with the kids. Be patient, be prepared for a little more of a mess and guide them along the way and you will find kids make excellent sous chefs. My recipe for cheesecake pancakes is just right for the little chefs of the family to lend a hand and make something they will love to eat.I encourage everyone to embrace the philosophy of families that cook together, stay together, both in your homes and fire houses. Soon the philosophy becomes habit and a way of life. Building and strengthening relationships and growing a solid family and team has never been easier, or more delicious! Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon Mushroom and burrata lasagnette with a fall harvest salad Mushroom and burrata lasagnette with a fall harvest salad   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria2912eee1cb Jalapeño kettle chip fish tacos 1 kg (2 lbs) fresh haddock fillets or any mild whitefish 1 cup flour, seasoned with Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and Old Bay seasoning 2 eggs beaten 2 bags jalapeño kettle chips, crushed Canola or peanut oil Corn tortillas Spicy avocado lime crema (recipe follows) Pico de gallo (recipe follows) Sriracha aioli (recipe follows) 1/4 head of cabbage, finely shredded 1. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a large deep skillet to 350 F.2. Set up a breading station by having a bowl for each the seasoned flour, beaten eggs and crushed kettle chips. Dust the fish pieces lightly with seasoned flour. Then dip fish into beaten eggs, then toss in the crushed kettle chips pushing down on them to make them stick. Repeat with process with the remaining fish. When your oil is hot enough, fry fish for a couple of minutes per side or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towel and season with salt and pepper.3. When ready to serve heat the corn tortillas as per package directions. Spread the avocado lime crema on a tortilla and place fried fish on top. Add shredded cabbage and garnish with pico de gallo and Sriracha aioli. Enjoy!Spicy avocado lime crema 4 avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped 2 cups sour cream 1 lime and zest 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, chopped A few drops of green Tabasco sauce A handful of cilantro, chopped Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper Using a food processor, mix all the ingredients together. Keep in the refrigerator.Pico de gallo 2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped 1 jalapeño, seeded, chopped 1 garlic clove, minced 1 red onion, minced 1 lime, juiced A handful of cilantro, chopped 2 tablespoons olive oil Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper In a bowl mix together all the ingredients. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.Sriracha aioli 1 cup good-quality mayonnaise 3 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce 1 tbsp grated garlic Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste In a bowl mix together all the ingredients. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.Mushroom and burrata lasagnette 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided 2 tbsp olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing 1½ pounds mixed mushrooms (such as chanterelle, crimini, and oyster), cut into bite-size pieces Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper 1 large shallot, finely chopped ⅓ cup dry white wine 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves 1 cup ricotta ¼ cup heavy cream 1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped 6 fresh pasta sheets (about 7x5 inches) or 12 dried lasagna noodles 8 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick 1 cup finely grated Parmesan 6 large fresh basil leaves 1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Heat two tablespoons of the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and starting to crisp, about eight to 10 minutes. Add shallots, wine, thyme and remaining one tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the skillet is dry, about five minutes. Scoop mushrooms into a bowl and set aside.2. Combine ricotta, cream and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.3. Working in batches, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 30 seconds. (If using dried noodles, cook until al dente.) Transfer noodles to a large-rimmed baking sheet as you go, brushing with oil and overlapping as needed.4. Spread a thin layer of ricotta mixture in a small coquette or ramekin and top with a pasta sheet (if using dried, use two noodles side by side). Spread a large spoonful of ricotta mixture over pasta, scatter some mushrooms over, then add a piece of burrata. Top evenly with some Parmesan and one basil leaf.5. Repeat layering process (starting with noodles and ending with basil) a few more times; finish with the last of the Parmesan and a grind or two of pepper.6. Cover lasagnette with foil and bake until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool at least five minutes before serving. Enjoy!Sweet and salty fall harvest saladFor the salad: 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced ½ cup chopped pecans 1 tbsp unsalted butter 2 tbsp brown sugar 1 bunch of kale or other dark leafy greens, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped (about 8 cups) 1 cup blue cheese, cubed 1 large apple, cored and roughly chopped ½ cup dried cherries For the maple vinaigrette: 2 tbsp pure maple syrup 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp Dijon mustard 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar Pinch kosher salt 1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Spread the squash out on a large baking sheet and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with some salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Roast for 35 minutes, toss the squash, and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, tossing periodically until the squash is browned and softened.2. While the squash roasts, make the candied pecan clusters. Have a baking sheet with parchment paper ready and set aside. Heat the butter and brown sugar over medium heat in a medium non-stick pan until bubbling. Toss the pecans into the butter-sugar mixture until coated. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar turns a dark amber colour. Pour the pecans out onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread them out with a rubber spatula. Allow them to cool completely before breaking them up into clusters.3. Make the vinaigrette by whisking the maple syrup, 1/4 cup olive oil, mustard, vinegar and salt together in a medium bowl or shake it all together in a mason jar. Whisk in additional olive oil in small increments up to 1/3 cup total until you reach your desired dressing consistency.4. In a large bowl, toss the kale with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil until the kale turns bright green and glossy, about two to three minutes.5. Top the kale with the squash, blue cheese, apples, cranberries, and pecan clusters. Drizzle the maple vinaigrette over the top of the salad before serving while the squash is still warm. Enjoy!Cheesecake pancakes with maple peppered bacon 1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced 2 tbsp strawberry jam 2 tbsp maple syrup 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/4 cup buttermilk 1 large egg 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tbsp for cooking 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda Pinch of kosher salt 2 cups chopped frozen cheesecake 1 tbsp butter Butter, confectioners' sugar or whipped cream, for topping (optional) Maple peppered bacon (directions below) 1. Mix the strawberries, jam and maple syrup in a small pot and simmer over low heat as you prepare the pancakes. Preheat the oven to 200 F.2. Pulse the flour, buttermilk, egg, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheesecake pieces, keeping them whole.3. Melt the butter and the oil in a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Working in batches, pour about 1/4 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake. Cook until bubbly on top, about four minutes, then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about two more minutes. Transfer the finished pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Serve the pancakes topped with the strawberry sauce, and top with butter, confectioners' sugar or whipped cream, if you wish.4. Maple peppered bacon: Position wire racks on two rimmed baking sheets. Lay one pound bacon in a single layer on the racks and bake seven minutes at 375 F. Brushing bacon with maple syrup and continue baking until caramelized, about 25 minutes, flipping, brushing with syrup and seasoning with pepper every five minutes. Let cool five minutes on the racks. Enjoy with the pancakes!Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario. He was recently featured in Food Network’s Chopped Canada. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @StationHouseCCo
In early February I took the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) train-the-trainer course in Mississauga, Ont., and it changed me, challenged me, and at the same time gave me hope. My own experiences with mental-health issues were precisely what attracted me to the course, and I was glad to have been chosen as one of the first 40 fire-service members in Ontario to be accepted into the program.
All firefighters should be physically ready for duty. Most departments, career and volunteer, require recruits to pass a physical test. This column is directed at those who are preparing for recruitment, but the content also applies to firefighters who wish to remain prepared for the physical demands of their jobs.
A structure fire. Adrenaline-filled fire crews work the irons and power tools as their SCBAs supply much-needed air. Hand lamps provide a dim glow as the light reflects off the blinding, acrid smoke. Over deafening noises, radios attempt to keep crews in constant contact. A centrifugal pump whines as it pushes water through a hoseline and out the open nozzle. Diligent personnel and their important tools work in unison until their properly applied extinguishing agent attains the benchmark, “loss stopped.”  
Anyone who has spent any amount of time working out has experienced boredom or lack of motivation. Don’t worry, it’s not just you. The good news is that we benefit from variety. Your body is very smart and adapts by finding easier ways to complete routine tasks. Mixing things up is ultimately an advantage and should improve your results.
There are very few ingredients in the cooking world that have the versatility, mass appeal, and recipe variation as the incredible edible egg (thanks for that one, Canadian Egg Farmers!).
A basic tenet of firefighter survival is the foundational knowledge and training that supports everything we do – in other words, the basics or the foundations of fire fighting. These basics help firefighters with self-rescue, should it ever be required.
Let’s start from the beginning.
In the October edition of Tim-bits, I focused on a method of leader-line deployment that has served our department well; its versatility and ease of use has found favour with our firefighters when it’s necessary to extend attack lines.
Editor Laura King spoke with Chris Fuz Schwab, the deputy chief in Smoky Lake, Alta., after he returned from Fort McMurray. This is an edited transcript of their conversation.
As the first-due engine company responds swiftly to a confirmed bedroom fire, the company officer in the right, front seat scans the GIS map on the engine’s iPad for locations of nearby fire hydrants. The company officer finds that the best hydrant is six houses past the incident address, and the second-best hydrant is a block before the incident, but is on the opposite side of the street.The company officer knows that a charged, large-diameter supply hose snaking up the street will likely block access to the next-arriving companies, so she ranked that hydrant second. As the engine approaches the second-ranked hydrant, the officer shouts to the emergency-vehicle operator: “You’re going to hit the hydrant up there, past the address. Stop in front of the house, we’ll drop our leader line and two attack bundles. Reverse lay the leader line to the hydrant. Send water as soon as you get it, don’t wait for us to call for it!” The operator nods and sails past the first-encountered hydrant. As soon as the air brakes are set in front of the burning house, the company officer and her two firefighters disembark the engine, retrieve their assigned hand tools and both ladders and drop them all in the front yard. The officer heads to the rear hose bed and pulls the leader-line bundle down to the street, while each firefighter shoulders and disconnects the top two sections of both of the engine’s mid-mount minuteman, crosslay hose loads. Once the  firefighters are clear of the engine, the company offer kneels on the leader-line bundle and shouts for her driver to begin the reverse lay toward the hydrant. The situation in this story occurs all too often, but based on my knowledge gained from instructing locally and internationally, the decisions made and the actions performed by the company officer are rare. Firefighters, as creatures of habit, think securing a water supply means laying our supply hose from the hydrant and driving the fire engine toward the fire – a forward lay. Leader-line reverse lays are taught in recruit academies, but are rarely put to use and seldom trained on (and only if the fire engine is equipped to perform them). I’ve even witnessed a well-equipped fire engine drive past the fire, perform no fewer than six three-point turns on a single-lane road, just to turn around and perform a forward lay from the hydrant to the fire. A reverse lay with a leader line would have sent water to the fire much faster.A leader line is a dead load of 77-millimetre (three-inch) hose packed flat-load style in a hose bed from the female coupling. Typically, the hose in the bed will be no less than six lengths, and will terminate on top at the last male coupling with a water thief or other gated, reducing wye. A leader line’s function is to extend a larger diameter hoseline further than would be practical to stretch smaller lines, and then attach smaller attack lines to the appliance on the end. As much hose as needed is removed, and the line is then broken and attached to a side or rear discharge for supply. We have devised a unique way of packing our leader lines that enable an effective reverse-lay operation, or simply extend our attack lines further from the truck than our pre-connected hoses will allow. The idea is to form a bundle of 77-mm hose that contains one length and a water thief. Our members use a 1.8-metre (six-foot) piece of old large-diameter supply hose to form the base of the bundle; we purchased some cheap utility straps and pass them through the width of the large-diameter hose at several spots to hold the bundled section of hose and the appliance. The purpose of the large-diameter hose base is to ensure the bundle stays packed together neatly and to enable an easier removal from the hose bed with less friction. We also attach a rope pull handle on the bed end to make retrieval easier. Our district has a lot of properties with deep setbacks, so it is imperative that the water thief makes it well into the front yard, if not just short of the front door. Our practice of removing the top sections of our minuteman pre-connects gives us just 30 metres (100 feet) of working hose length and the nozzle – a water thief in the street is useless as the majority of our attack hose will be laying in the yard. The one-section leader-line bundle can be dropped and unstrapped in the street, and advanced one full length toward the structure; this helps to ensure that the firefighters will have almost all of the attack hose length at their disposal for use inside the structure. Our version of the leader-line bundle works well for our department and has proven to be a versatile tool. Give it a try – it might be a fit for your department. Now get out there and practise with your leader lines!Tim Llewellyn is a firefighter for the Allegheny County Airport Authority in Pittsburgh, Pa., and an instructor for a number of fire academies and training faculties.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Much work has been done over the last three decades to improve the quality of firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE). We are long removed from the minimal protection provided by hip waders and rain coats that were used by some of Canada’s largest fire departments up to the early 1990s.Today’s PPE ensemble, combined with the latest in respiratory-protection devices, affords firefighters the best available opportunity to survive the hazards in a modern-construction dwelling containing materials that burn much more quickly and hotter than they did just 30 years ago. Even with the latest and greatest in available technology, there are situations in which firefighters are seriously injured or killed as a result of acute exposure to the intense heat associated with hotter and faster-developing structure fires.I first heard Winnipeg firefighter Lionel Crowther’s story at the 2015 Canadian Burn Symposium in Toronto. While working an overtime shift on the evening of Feb. 4, 2007, a response to a house fire produced results that have changed Crowther’s life. We now know Crowther and his crew likely encountered a change in fire conditions as a result of flow-path dynamics. Crowther suffered burns to 70 per cent of his body, 30 per cent of which were full-thickness burns. Captains Harold Lessard and Thomas Nichols died on scene and firefighter Ed Wiebe suffered injuries that put him in critical, but survivable, condition. Firefighters Darcy Funk and Scott Atchison sustained minor injuries.Crowther was exposed to extreme heat levels for an extended period of time as he was unable to make an exit when fire conditions changed; he sustained burns that may have been caused by the compression of superheated gasses trapped in his bunker gear. (For more about Crowther go to https://afterthecocoon.com/burn-survivors/lionel-crowther/)NFPA 1971 sets the minimum performance requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) and also specifies the test methods by which the PPE is measured. The newest test is the stored energy test, which was added in 2013. Industry experts recognized the thermal protection offered by bunker gear also results in heat being stored in bunker gear. The trapped, superheated gas, when compressed at pinch points in the suit at the knees and the elbows, causes burns. Another common place where superheated gases are trapped is behind the backplate of the SCBA. Crowther’s story closely resembles that of Winnipeg firefighter Barry Borkowski, who suffered significant injuries on Oct. 9, 1994. Since retiring as a captain in 2005, Borkowski has worked to implement design changes to bunker gear.The evolution of engineering of bunker gear has resulted in significant improvements in protection of firefighters; NFPA 1971 has evolved as a result of different types of firefighter injuries, and now measures more factors. But with the improvements have come some challenges: the retention of superheated gasses inside the PPE envelope has resulted in burns during the handling of firefighters who have been removed from fires. ***Representatives from the International Association of Fire Fighters were invited to attend the 2015 Toronto burn symposium and participate as presenters. At the 2014 symposium, much of the information presented contained American-specific details. In 2015, I was asked to co-present – from a Canadian perspective – with Judy Knighton, a registered nurse and burn specialist at the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Knighton and I were tasked to identify best practices in handling and managing the care of responders who sustained burns. Knighton handled to the transport and treatment priorities in her presentation titled Emergency Management and Outpatient Care of the Person with Burns. I addressed management of the patient immediately following removal from the hazardous environment in my presentation, Managing the Handling of the Rescued Firefighter.Emotions among fellow firefighters run high when a firefighter is rescued from a fire. As with all hazardous situations in which patients are involved, the primary concern should be rescuer safety. It is important that the rescuers wear full PPE when managing care for a rescued firefighter, and be purposeful and careful when handling the super-heated firefighter. The rescuers need to: Avoid off-gassing from firefighter; Avoid skin contact with hot bunker gear. Considerations and steps to safely remove the PPE ensemble: Have the firefighter remain standing• Allow some time for the PPE envelope to passively cool and off-gas or use a positive-pressure ventilation fan to speed up the process• Do not use a hose line to cool the firefighter while he or she is in the PPE ensemble.• Use two rescuers to facilitate the removal of the PPE ensemble• Protect the rescued firefighter from the stored heat in the bunker gear• Avoid sitting, laying down, bending limbs prior to dissipating stored heat Loosen the SCBA shoulder straps; communicate your planned actions and co-ordinate the loosenin Disconnect the chest strap Loosen and unbuckle the waist belt Remove and replace the neck flap Open the front jacket flap while unclasping/unzipping the coat Open the jacket Remove the stage 2 regulator Roll the coat and the SCBA over the shoulders Remove gloves and the remainder of the coat Unclasp the pants, and remove the suspenders, letting the pants fall Roll the pants over the boots, and assist in removal of boots. Remove helmet, balaclava and mask. Initial burn treatment: Rapid access to definitive care ASAP Use water to cool small minor local burns Cut away clothing if necessary to avoid debriding when fabric remains in the burned tissue Protect open burn wound with dry sterile burn dressings Facilitate rapid transport to definitive care Initial assessment of burns on scene are quite often not overly reliable; some burns that appear to be minor end up being severe while some burns that seem to be significant end up being less severe.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria0ee56f199f All regions in the country have burn centers associated with leading-edge hospitals that are best suited to manage the care of burn patients. It is worthwhile to ascertain where your firefighter will go when they sustain significant burn injuries. Our partners in emergency medical services will facilitate movement of firefighters to these facilities.  Fire services are very good at preplanning occupancies so they are aware of the different hazards. Situational awareness training is also helping firefighters recognize and react when fire conditions are about to change. These are initiatives designed to limit the risk to firefighters when emergencies occur. Through articles like this and presentations at conferences such as the Canadian Burn Symposium, we hope to spread the word about how to manage the superheated firefighter to limit injuries to the rescuer and the rescuee. These are low-incidence, high-risk situations that need to be planned for before they happen.  Ken Webb is a 22-year career fire fighter at Toronto Fire Services who is also paramedic trained. Ken served 15 years as a captain in the professional development and training division. For the last eight years, Ken has been the manager of the firefighter pre-hospital care program at the Sunnybrook Centre for Pre-hospital Medicine in Toronto.
Some questions are being asked in the fire-rescue community about the use of carbon-fiber material in new vehicle construction. Although carbon fiber has been in the aircraft industry for many years, it is now being used in many late-model vehicles coming off the assembly line. It’s important that rescuers understand how carbon fiber is made and its properties in order to safely and efficiently predict and deal with this materialCarbon fiber is a lightweight, strong alternative to common steel. It is used in everything from an airliner fuselages to racing-bike frames and protective cell-phone cases. Carbon fiber was invented in the United States in the late 1950s but it wasn’t until a new manufacturing process was developed at a British research center in early ’60s that carbon fiber’s strength and lightweight potential was truly realized. Carbon fiber reinforced polymer, or CFRP, is a process of combining strands of acrylic yarn together and baking the material to 1,400 F, which activates the carbonation of the yarn, hence the term carbon fiber. Each carbon fiber has roughly 10 layers of fabric; it is  placed in a heavy press, air is extracted, a chemical resin is injected under high pressure and heated again for a specific time; then the fiber is cooled and the part is formed. When the part is removed from the press, the edges are very jagged so they are trimmed and sanded. The outer layer is the product’s final color and finish, which is a dark grey or black; the parts can be painted any colour, but are often left in the original colour, which has a unique, professional high-tech look. One of the main advantages of this material is the strength-to-weight ratio of carbon fiber after the above process is completed; the actual weight of the component is a fraction of that of the same part made of steel. This transmits into reduced weight of vehicle parts which, in turn, can result in an overall increase in fuel economy of 20 to 30 per cent; that saving really motivates the auto industry to include carbon fiber in production lines. As a result, there will be a big push in the next few years of carbon fiber and aluminum combinations mated with other lightweight materials in modern vehicles. Anywhere the manufacture can reduce weight results in better fuel economy. Another area that has undergone change is inside the vehicle passenger compartment, where structural strength is not important but cosmetic appeal is desired. Carbon fiber, with its sleek, stylish, eye-catching look really complements the interior of even the entry-level vehicle and is well suited for door panels and handles, outer seat contours and dash parts. These components do not have to conform to structural standards and can be made slimmer, quicker and cheaper for this reason.On the structural side of things, auto manufacturers have established methods to give carbon-fiber parts more strength in a specific direction, for example, increasing strength in a load-bearing direction, but not doing so in areas that bear less load. Developments are underway that allow for omni-directional carbon-fiber construction, which applies strength in all directions. This version of carbon-fiber association is mostly being used in the safety cell unibody chassis assembly. Another advantage as time has passed; carbon fiber reinforced polymer has proven to be very corrosion resistant; this is a very important characteristic in both the outer body panels of the vehicle and the structural makeup of the framework or safety cell. Let’s look at one popular vehicle that uses versions of CFRP and aluminum that’s cutting edge technology. According to the engineers and stakeholders at the Beamer camp, “The new 2016 BMW fifth-generation 7 Series uses a passenger cell called a ‘Carbon Core’ to improve performance and fuel economy, which cuts the weight by 86.kilos (or 190 pounds.)”While the BMW carbon core is not a complete carbon-fiber, reinforced plastic tub or a series of panels as is used in racecars or hybrid supercars, the BMW efficient lightweight technology combines carbon fiber with lightweight, high-strength steel, and aluminum body panels. There are some carbon-fiber brackets and stiffeners, such as the cross-member at the top of the windshield. CFRP is inside the steel roof pillars to keep the cabin intact in a rollover or severe side impact. More 7 Series body panels are now aluminum, including doors and the trunk lid. The brakes, wheels, and suspension have lightened by 15 per cent, BMW says; savings to the so-called un-sprung weight parts have a much greater effect on performance than taking the same weight out of the gearbox or seats. BMW liberally reinforces the already strong metal/aluminum passenger cell with CFRP in critical places. The 15 CFRP reinforcements include the header above the windshield, door sills, transmission tunnel, front-to-back and left-to-right roof reinforcement tubes and bows, the B-pillar between front and rear doors, the C-pillar, and rear parcel shelf. Most of the discussion around CFRP from a rescuer’s perspective concerns actual tool use and the dust that is created when breaching or cutting into the material. Testing done by rescuers has shown that there can be a fair amount of CFRP dust when using  tools such as a fine tooth reciprocating saw blade. Although each CFRP manufacturer uses different chemicals and resins to make its product, most of the material safety data  sheets call to protect your airway with either a respirator or N95 particulate mask when working around CFRP airborne dust. In discussions with the companies that make or work with CFRP, all workers have stated that when cutting, sanding or in any situation in which they are creating dust particles, they have either worn the proper PPE as mentioned above or if operating in a close environment, have done the work under a ventilation hood fan. It is my belief that rescuers should adopt these same protocols, err on the side of caution and wear N95 masks when working around the CFRP dust.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriad1a2697574  Another challenge worthy of mention is the fact that manufacturers may paint over the carbon-fiber components and thus give rescuers no indication whether the component it is steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber. The 2016 BMW7 series upper A-pillar is an example of this; the indicator in this case is the carbon-core stamp on the top of the B-pillar.One method firefighters in the United Kingdom use to determine if a component is made of carbon-fiber material is to place a small, pocket-sized magnet on the suspected component; if the magnet doesn’t stick, the component is most likely carbon fiber or possibly aluminum, and therefore rescuers know to protect their airways accordingly with approved respiratory measures.    In terms of hydraulic rescue tools breaching CRFP material – the material is not a challenge to sever as it simply crushes the part, such as a B-pillar, with relative ease. When cutting or spreading, the material simply breaks apart into small fragments. Rescuers will have no problem cutting the material with hand tools such as reciprocating saws and air chisels; doing so would be similar to cutting fiberglass.Most vehicle manufacturers are investigating, testing and using carbon fiber in some form or another. Ultimately, use of carbon fiber will help manufacturers meet stricter fuel-economy and crash-safety standards. The use of carbon fiber in a vehicle can significantly reduce the weight and size of the framework; this will allow engineers to design and create more passenger compartment space. Using more carbon fiber in the manufacturing process also reduces the volume of water and electricity used to build vehicle components and chassis. Advancements in carbon-fiber technology will trickle down to the mainstream, just as airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control have done. Staying abreast of the changes to vehicles will allow first responders to stay on the top of their game. Randy Schmitz is a Calgary firefighter extensively involved in the extrication field. He is the education chair for the Transport Emergency Rescue Committee in Canada.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   @firedog7
Firefighters need survival skills, but they also need to understand how correcting certain behaviours can help prevent dangerous situations. In the last two issues of Canadian Firefighter, this column explained how peer pressure and complacency can contribute to dangerous environments for firefighters. Two more reasons for concern are inexperience and good ol’ Murphy’s Law.Inadequate fire ground experienceThrough the efforts of fire-prevention officers and campaigns, the number of structural fires to which firefighters respond has decreased. Better building codes, better education, better and more frequent inspections, and better construction methods have resulted in fewer fires than there were 20 years ago. With the decrease in structural-fire response comes a decrease in firefighters’ exposure to high-risk events. In the world of risk management, there are categories of risk that can be used to rank certain actions or operations based upon severity and frequency. Structural fire fighting fits into the category of high risk, low frequency: this means that fire services are responding to events that are high risk, but that are infrequent, therefore firefighters are more susceptible to the outcomes of that risk. At these events, there are injuries, critical mistakes, line-of-duty deaths and the wrong sequence of actions taking place on the fire ground, all the result of the low frequency of response. When firefighters are caught off guard at one of these high-risk, low-frequency events, they need to be able to get out by any means necessary. Murphy’s LawA final reason for having a firefighter survival program is Murphy’s Law – what can go wrong will go wrong. No matter how well prepared firefighters are, there is still the chance that something dangerous will happen on the fire ground. Whenever firefighters face a dilemma or a problem on the fire ground, their survival skills allow them to process the problem, determine the viable solution to the problem, and then enact the solution to overcome the situation. Firefighters need to be able to adapt and overcome – that is firefighter survival. Murphy’s Law requires a firefighter to be prepared for the unexpected by being able to adapt and to overcome that which is thrown at them. So why learn firefighter survival? How do survival skills benefit the firefighter and others? These skills give firefighters the ability to rescue themselves. When crew members face a life-or-death situation, they need to be able to save themselves. A firefighter may have called for a mayday and the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) might be on the way, but the member in danger cannot just sit there and wait – he or she needs to do something to get out and away from the problem and into safety. The firefighter should be prepared to do something unorthodox – not found in a textbook – but effective to escape safely and quickly.The rapid intervention team will not arrive as quickly as you may think; depending on the situation, it may take team members a little while to get to a firefighter. The average time for a RIT to rescue a downed firefighter is about 21 minutes, with about 12 firefighters needed to complete the job. In 21 minutes, a single firefighter can do something to self rescue.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleriafc31d0e586 Firefighter survival skills also form the basis of rescuing other firefighters. The Phoenix Fire Department tested its rapid intervention crews after firefighter Bret Tarver died in the line of duty in 2001. The testing found that one in five RIT members found himself in trouble, requiring assistance by another rapid intervention team. You can see how quickly this situation escalates, with more firefighters needed to rescue one, two or perhaps three downed firefighters. Firefighters who have the survival skills to save or rescue themselves can help de-escalate the situation. Houston Station 8 fire Capt. Eric Joel Abbt’s story is a good example of the importance of firefighter survival skills. On March 28, 2007, Abbt responded to a highrise fire that was started by arson. Abbt was working on the fifth floor trying to rescue an occupant when he declared a mayday due to low air. Abbt waited for the RIT  for 18 minutes before he was plucked from a window on an aerial ladder and brought down to an awaiting EMS crew. Abbt told the story of his ordeal and said: “A lot of guys think that this won’t happen to them – it can happen to you.” Fighting fires is a high risk, low-frequency job, and that is why firefighters need survival skills. All structural firefighters should have the skills needed to rescue themselves when they are faced with dangerous situations similar to Capt. Abbt’s.Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is a full-time firefighter in Ontario. He teaches in Canada, the United States and India and is the lead author of Residential Fire Rescue.   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the September 2015 edition of Fire Fighting in Canada. It has been updated.
The County of Grande Prairie in Alberta, in early conversations with Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership (GPREP), had committed personnel for deployment for the incident occurring in Fort McMurray. This commitment was for roles specific to the Incident Management Team (IMT). (GPREP is an emergency response partnership comprising the County of Grande Prairie, the City of Grande Prairie, the Town of Wembley, the Town of Beaverlodge, the Town of Sexsmith and Village of Hythe.)
On Tuesday, May 3, we had heard that things in Fort McMurray were getting bad: people were being evacuated and the threat to the city was huge. In the afternoon, I had been talking with one of my captains with the High River Fire Department, Brent McGregor. McGregor had been a training officer in Fort McMurray before moving to High River Fire, and he was concerned about the city and the guys up there as this had been his home for a number of years.
Editor’s note: Sue Henry is a deputy chief with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. Editor Laura King spoke with Henry following the deployment of the all-hazards Canada Task Force 2 to Fort McMurray.

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