Voice of experience

Voice of experience

Slave Lake Fire Chief Jamie Coutts took his experience from the 2011 fire that decimated 40 per cent of his community to Fort Mac on May 3. Coutts provides a first-hand account of his first 24 hours in the hot zone.

All-hazards response

All-hazards response

Sue Henry, deputy chief with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, explains the role Canada Task Force 2 played in Fort McMurray.

Pay back

Pay back

High River firefighter Cody Zebedee, who lost his home during the 2013 Alberta flood, deployed to Fort McMurray to reciprocate for the help his department received during the flood.

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.
June 9, 2016, Prince Albert, Sask. – My first experience of FDIC Atlantic – held in Wolfville, N.S., on the weekend – is complete and I think my body is beginning to adjust back to the time zone to which it is accustomed.A couple of days before I left home, I booked a rental car so I could drive to Wolfville from Halifax. Shortly after I posted my plans, firefighter Chris Kerr sent me a message and offered to drive me to Wolfville and drive me back to the airport on Sunday. We follow each other on Facebook and I thought it would be great to meet Kerr, so I cancelled my rental.As fate would have it, Kerr is also an instructor at the Nova Scotia Firefighters School in Waverley, N.S., near the airport, and he made a point to stop to give me a tour of the facility. The school has a new state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar burn building with helicopter and car props, which is impressive to say the least. The best part of the school is that it focuses on multiple partnerships so industry and local firefighters have a place to train and become certified.Upon arrival at Acadia University where the training conference was held, I really didn't know what to expect. I was given a quick tour of the trade show and classroom locations and then basically left to network and meet new friends until my sessions on Saturday.I told almost all the firefighters I met that this was my first time presenting at FDIC Atlantic, and many responded by saying I would love the experience and hospitality.I can only communicate what I saw in Wolfville during the conference, and what I saw was an ocean of blue fire-department T-shirts; I guess that is what happens when more than 400 firefighters come to town to train and be educated.I'm a big fan of the trade show and always look forward to walking around and seeing the latest gadgets, tools and resources. What I didn't expect to see was the volume of firefighters checking out and purchasing products. The last time I experience such a crowd was going for a beer during half time at a Saskatchewan Roughriders game.I wanted to do something to contribute to the rebuilding process in Fort McMurray, Alta., so I brought with me 25 challenge coins that I could sell and then give the proceeds to the Red Cross. I wasn't really sure how that would go over, but I know firefighters and they always step up to the plate to help others. The challenge coins were quickly purchased and I'm excited to be taking $500 to the Red Cross on behalf of the firefighters who attended my sessions at FDIC Atlantic.As always, one of the amazing benefits of of being able to speak to firefighters is building of relationships. The firefighters who attended FDIC Atlantic are truly passionate and care about serving. I continue to meet firefighters who are shakers and movers in their communities, and who give up weekends to learn and grow for the benefit of their professions and their communities.The experience at FDIC Atlantic was incredible and the firefighters were right when they said that I would love the experience and hospitality.Les Karpluk is the retired fire chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department in Saskatchewan. He is a graduate of the Lakeland College Bachelor of Business in Emergency Services program and Dalhousie University's Fire Administration and Fire Service Leadership programs. Follow Les on Twitter at @GenesisLes
May 19, 2016, Toronto – First responders in all provinces except Ontario will have access to an NFPA training package to help them handle collisions and extrications involving alternatively fuelled vehicles, under a partnership with fire marshals' offices across the country.The NFPA announced the partnership May 10, a week before the Ontario government on Tuesday committed $7 billion for a climate-change plan that includes rebates for drivers of electric vehicles.The Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) confirmed Wednesday that it does not have the necessary funding to buy the licence to sign on to the NFPA program. All other provinces and territories are contributing up to $100,000 each and providing the training free of charge to firefighters and other responders."The OFMEM is currently looking at other options, including potential partnerships, in furtherance of funding for the NFPA program," said the OFMEM's Tony Pacheco, assistant deputy fire marshal and executive officer, in an email.If my understanding is correct, the partnership had been in the works for a considerable time, and, in fact, had been supported by the OFMEM and previous Ontario fire marshal Ted Wieclawek.That the country's most populous province, with, logically, the highest volume of alternatively fuelled vehicles, found $7 billion to fund its 57-page Climate Change Action Plan but failed to ante up $100,000 to teach responders to safely rescue motorists from collisions is vexing, yet typical.Firefighter training, it seems, is low on the province's priority list, the government seemingly more interested in investigations and enforcing its rules and regulations than ensuring responder safety by developing solid and affordable programming at the Ontario Fire College.Which is rather incongruous given that under provincial occupational health and safety legislation, firefighters and others are prohibited from responding to incidents for which they have not been properly trained.Already some fire departments are reviewing auto-ex responses on provincial highways given the imbalance between the cost of sending firefighters to the scene, and the reimbursement from the government.(Not to mention the state of flux at the OFMEM: as interim Fire Marshal Ross Nichols told fire chiefs in Toronto two weeks ago, frustration with government inaction on long-promised fire-service initiatives – changes to the provincial incident management system, more public education, improved standards – is mounting.)While Pacheco said dangers and common principles of electric vehicles are discussed in other training – NFPA 1001 and 1033, the fire investigator course –there is no dedicated program.Indeed, the NFPA and the council of fire marshals noted in their press release that the federal-government co-ordinated document, Electric Vehicle Technology Roadmap for Canada, highlights the necessity for training."Emergency responders need training on EVs to ensure they execute their duties in a safe and timely manner," the report says. "They need to know how to deal with high-voltage batteries and flows of electricity within vehicles in order to safely extricate victims at times of collisions."Nova Scotia Fire Marshal Harold Pothier, who is the president of the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners, said in an interview Wednesday the electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicle safety program should roll out in most regions at the end of the summer or in early fall.According to the release, career and volunteer firefighters, police, emergency medical services, tow truck operators and other first responders will have access to train-the-trainer and in-classroom sessions, resources, and emergency field guides that explain how to handle AFV incidents on-scene.Except those in Ontario.
May 11, 2016, Winnipeg - The Toronto Star published an editorial cartoon yesterday of a group of superheroes standing together in solidarity in front of a Fort McMurray firefighter – Superman, Batman, and other comic-book icons looking stoic and in appreciation of a humble firefighter who was covered in soot from protecting his community; the image has appeared all over social media.
May 10, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - The devastating pictures and videos coming out of Fort McMurray, Alta., over the past week have struck a chord in everyone. Fire and its consumable nature is something that people don’t often think about until it hits close to home.Many people enjoy the sights and sounds (and even the distinct smell) of sitting by a campfire, but even the most innocent campfire can become out of control and damage property and structures. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have campfires, but we should enjoy them responsibly, use well-maintained fire pits, and respect the power that fires yield. It’s great to roast marshmallows but we don’t want to be roasting our lawn, trees, or home.Many homeowners use fire as a cost-effective and, for the most part, environmentally friendly way to clear brush, leaves and dead tree branches. Yet most of us have responded to a brush fire that was caused by an embarrassed homeowner who lost control of the blaze.Don’t get me wrong, responding to, controlling and extinguishing fire is one of our many duties and the reason we’re here, but we still need to educate and encourage people to take the necessary precautions so that we don’t need to respond in the first place. The fire department is a reactive measure; educating people about fire safety in all forms is a proactive measure.Those of us who join the fire department do so with different career paths and goals in mind, but we all joined for the same reason: to help our communities. If your fire department has a fire-prevention officer and/or a public-education officer, that’s fantastic, but educating the public is every firefighter’s job.Whether you are on a call or filling up the trucks at the local gas station after the call, share fire-safety information with the public. Never miss out on an opportunity to raise awareness about the services we offer and the knowledge we can share with others. We have a ton of training in so many different aspects of fire suppression, prevention, rescue, medical, hazardous materials, and so on, so why wouldn’t we share what we know? Why would we wait to help others?I haven’t heard how the fire in Fort McMurray was started, but clearly something got out of control – intentionally or accidently. More than 80,000 people were forced to leave their homes, their belongings and their lives behind, with no idea of what they’ll be returning to when it’s all over. To the firefighters continuing to battle the blaze, be safe, we’re praying for you.As for all the other firefighters out there who are reading these words, educate, educate, educate! Share your passion with others. Your words could be the ones that keep someone safe.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
May 9, 2016, Grande Prairie, Alta. – It was remarkably fitting that as we approached the fire hall in Sexsmith, Alta., Saturday afternoon, our last stop before our departure point in Grande Prairie after three days at Northern HEAT in Peace River, the Answer the Call recruitment logo appeared, prominently placed on the east side of the building.Because that's what's happening here in Wild Rose Country: firefighters, mostly volunteers, are being dispatched to Fort McMurray and other burning areas of the province, answering the call to help fight a seemingly unstoppable blaze.Our driver, Sexsmith Capt. Chris Welsh, had the Answer the Call logo – the province-wide campaign that goes national in September through the CAFC – made into an outdoor sign for a recruitment drive a year ago and opted to keep it up, despite a waiting list to get on the department, a reminder of the role volunteers play in the community of just 2,400.The three-bay hall, a decades old white, wooden building that's being replaced next year at a site a couple of blocks away, sits on a corner by a blacksmith museum, dwarfed by the town's grain elevator out back.To say that Welsh, who drove fellow Northern HEAT speaker Peter Van Dorpe, the chief in Algonquin-Lake in the Hills, Illinois, and me to and from Peace River, are proud of their department is an understatement: all 20-plus volunteers – average age around 25 – are NFPA 1001 certified.Sexsmith is part of the County of Grande Prairie; firefighters from these parts and elsewhere in the province have shuttled back and forth to Fort Mac over the last several days; others were dispatched to High Level, where Fire Chief Rodney Schmidt needed reinforcements to battle a massive lumber-mill fire, the burning wood piles 80 feet high, 60 feet wide and a mile long and threatening to spread (the massive Norbord building saved by firefighters.)Schmidt, the president of the Peace Regional Fire Chiefs Association, arrived back at Northern HEAT Saturday afternoon, having been called home on Wednesday in the middle of flashover training, the mill fire still burning but in good hands under incident commander Trevor Grant, High Level's former deputy, now a deputy with the County of Grande Prairie.At that point Saturday, 70 firefighters from 12 departments – Grande Prairie city and county, Grande Cache, Slave Lake and others – worked the mill blaze, all brought in under the Northwest Alberta emergency resourcing agreement drawn up by area chiefs and, so far, including 27 municipalities.The agreement was born of a wildfire that threatened High Level last year, to simplify the process of requesting resources from other departments while ensuring that all municipalities remain properly staffed, costs are properly (and fairly) allocated and personnel are properly rotated.Even after the Slave Lake fire in 2011, the province has yet to develop a municipal resourcing inventory, Schmitdt explained, although the Calgary Emergency Management Agency recently set up a portal for that purpose. Peace region chiefs, however, have established their own system along with the resourcing agreement, relying on each for support, equipment and manpower, keenly aware of the need to access additional trucks and personnel during emergencies and having the necessary legalities in place to do so quickly and efficiently.The run to High Level – not far from the Northwest Territories border – from Peace River is 300 kilometres. Grande Prairie is 200 kilometres south, Slave Lake 240 kilometres. Fort McMurray is almost 700 kilometres away.The more than 100 firefighters here, from the likes of Loon River, High Prairie, Fort Vermillion, Fairview, Nampa, Wembley, Whitecourt, Peerless Trout First Nation, St. Isador Three Creeks, High Level, La Crete and Grande Prairie, think no more of hopping in their pickups – or driving aerial trucks hundreds of kilometres – to help a fellow department than they do of going to practice on Tuesday nights or spending vacation time training at Northern HEAT.They have answered the call.View a Facebook gallery of photos from Northern HEAT.
May 6, 2016, Peace River, Alta. - The Northern HEAT – (Hands-on Education Awareness Training) conference here is a wonderful event – and this year held coincidental to a horrific backdrop of the carnage of wildfire.This is my second conference in less than a week and the contrasts are stark and illuminating.Twenty-four hours ago I could see the CN Tower. This morning I smell wildfires in northern Alberta – the other side of fire fighting. We may be a country of densely populated urban centres, but Mother Nature can still deliver cruel reminders about who is really in charge.The deputy chief for the County of Grande Prairie Regional Fire Service, Dan Verdun, was to pick up some of the conference speakers at the airport yesterday. He is in Fort McMurray.The president of the Peace Regional Fire Chiefs Association, High Level Chief Rodney Schmidt, was instructing flashover training earlier this week when he got a call, jumped in his truck and headed north, lights and sirens flashing – an industrial/wildfire threatening his community.Handfuls of firefighters from departments in the region have been dispatched to Fort MacMurray or High Level, everyone being careful to ensure there are enough resources left at home to provide proper coverage in this volatile, tinder-dry province.Driving north to Peace River from Grande Prairie last evening, up Highway 2 and through the stunning river valley with Capt. Chris Welsh and firefighter Craig Rees from Sexmith, smoke from a fire in Fort St. John, B.C., blanketed the setting sun, ash in the air when we got out of the Tahoe.There may, depending how things go today, be more conference speakers here than delegates. But as Schmidt said when I emailed him to check on the conference status, the show must go on.And for good reason.Conferences and trade shows like this are the venue for the intellectual cross pollination that educates and informs the fire service.My email in box is full of notes from the likes of Jamie Coutts, chief for the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Fire Service, who, needless to say, was in Fort Mac helping out earlier this week. He has seen this movie and his institutional knowledge from his community's experience in invaluable. He has spent a lot of nights in bad hotels travelling Canada and sharing his story since 2011.Lou Wilde, assistant chief in Kelowna who fought the devastating wildfires there in 2003 and 2009, messaged me last night, asking to give Fort McMurray Chief Darby Allen his best.Coutts and Wilde know the horror that Allen is living; everyone here is praising the chief's leadership, calm, and authority.The magnitude of the blaze enveloping Fort McMurray is mindboggling. Reading story after story about the fire while waiting for the flight to Grande Prairie, a Canadian Press report put things in perspective: at 850 square kilometres – and having grown nine times in size since Wednesday – the flames have consumed an area the size of Calgary, where I happened to be sitting in the airport.This is not new for Alberta. Three years ago when I was in Peace River, a handful of chief officers met to develop a response team similar to those south of the border that deploy to fires too big for local agencies to handle. There was talk of cross training more municipal/structural firefighters and wildland teams to better understand the urban interface, and subject-matter experts (logistics, for example) who could descend on a stricken community and relieve local fire personnel so they could look after their families with clear heads, knowing others were handling the incident.What struck me, at the time, was the commitment of the group of chief officers in the room – at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night – and their knowledge that the likes of Slave Lake, or worse, was not a possibility, but a given. The institutional memory and the transfer of knowledge among those involved is deep and deliberate: most had been to Slave Lake and were keenly aware that their communities are vulnerable to the winds and climate conditions that whipped the 2011 fire into a frightening frenzy.After consecutive record wildfire seasons in western Canada, a significant portion of Alberta is burning, so early in the year – 49 separate wildfires as of Thursday night – and BMO Capital Markets says the Fort McMurray blaze alone is "by far the largest potential catastrophe loss in Canadian history."Having lived in Edmonton in the early 1990s, smoke wafting south from wildfires in the north was common, just rarely in May.But as fire-and-weather specialist David Moseley, explained in Fire Fighting in Canada in April 2015, May is the most dangerous month."There are two weather conditions that are part of the equation," Moseley wrote. "The first is crossover, when the temperature in degrees Celsius is more than the relative humidity expressed as a percentage. The second weather condition is high wind." All that, and the perfect storm of El Nino, a mild winter and little snow.And as Chief Coutts said in our Fire Fighting in Canada This Week newscast two weeks ago, watch the conditions, not the calendar.That's why conferences like this matter. As sure as Slave Lake learned from Kelowna and Fort McMurray from Slave Lake, so, too, Fort Mac will build become template for success in the face of horror somewhere else.Writing last night from 15,000 feet up, on a northbound Air Canada Bombardier Dash 8-300, it was difficult to fathom that the snowcapped Rockies to the west glistening in the evening sun, and the spectacular river valleys below, are complicit in Mother Nature's caldron of disaster.Conferences like this are the connective tissue of the Canadian fire service. This is where people learn and share and prepare for a day they hope never comes.The backdrop is smokey and real. If that lends an urgency to the learning in the next 48 hours, so much the better.But the show must go on.
May 4, 2016, Toronto – It had to have been the most humbling couple of hours interim Ontario Fire Marshal Ross Nichols has experienced since he was appointed seven months ago.First, Nichols was grilled by the province's training officers, who are meeting during the Ontario Association of Fire Chief (OAFC) conference, their frustration with delayed projects and changes palpable and clearly vocalized.Then, following a speech to fire chiefs by Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi in which the politician put the audience on notice that change is imminent – consistent standards, improved training, clear guidelines and more public education – Nichols, essentially, said . . . nothing.Having been playfully warned by outgoing OAFC president Matt Pegg to refrain from using the phrase "we're working on it" in relation to myriad anticipated changes necessary to modernize the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM) and its mandate, Nichols was blunt, admitting that the speed of government is excruciatingly slow and, for him – an OPP inspector seconded to fire – exceedingly frustrating.The frustrations? Things Nichols didn't know he didn't know: that the OFMEM has 17 websites, many of them unnecessary or unworkable; that the time and energy of well-paid people put into the development of a municipal risk-assessment tool was all for naught – the OFMEM, Nichols said, should not be in the tool-making business; that there are issues with the speed of firefighter test results. "We're working on it," Nichols said. More than once.Nichols, looking pallid under the harsh lights in the conference room at the Toronto Convention Centre and in front of more than 250 chief fire officers and public educators, asked for patience and, in a lighter moment, admonished the frustrated masses to refrain from sending emails with multiple exclamation marks, capital letters and threats to carbon copy Naqvi and Deputy Minister Matthew Torrigian. Nichols will, he said, reply to emails and phone calls but, in not so many words, urged everyone to grow up and play nicely together in the sandbox.Nichols, who was likely a good cop but by his own admission is far from an exceptional orator, started well, hauling his 72-hour emergency-preparedness kit to the stage, this being Emergency Preparedness Week. There were chuckles, and even some sympathy among chief officers after the 30-minute speech, of the challenges of fixing an inherited system just as the move to NFPA standards from the Ontario curriculum occurred, and with internal personnel issues and longstanding and complex challenges such as the Northern Fire Protection Program (the NFPP website was closed for maintenance when I checked it this morning). There is, Nichols said, "a working group looking at what's needed in the north."Others were less kind afterwards, questioning the lack of a single announcement in what was undoubtedly a highly anticipated presentation – no update, for example, of the review of the provincial incident management system, recommended in the Elliot Lake Commission of Inquiry in October 2015.There was mention of the changes at the Ontario Fire College and credit given to principal Carol-Lynn Chambers for Herculean efforts to revamp the institution, but also acknowledgement of slow progress, stalled by government bureaucracy.Nichols acknowledged that there will be change as a result of the recommendations announced last week at the inquest into seven fire fatalities in Ontario in 2012 and 2013 but gave no specifics."The inquest," Nichols said, "highlighted the value of training, standards and public education." Which the OFMEM has known for years. (Earlier, Naqvi had said the government will review the Fire Protection and Prevention Act to clarify municipal obligations of fire prevention and staff training.)Nichols acknowledged conversations about First Nations fire protection, but again, no announcement. "Good meetings," he said.Having roundly apologized for the snail's pace of progress, and thoroughly accepted ownership of the need to get on with things, Nichols opened the floor to questions. Unsurprisingly, given Nichols' full disclosure that there's nothing to report, there were just two – a statement rather than a question from OAFC first vice president Steve Hernen, who acknowledged the fire marshal's forthrightness but made it clear that chiefs, too, are frustrated – and a second that involved more local issues outside the purview of the OFMEM.Hernen was elected OAFC president Wednesday afternoon.
May 2, 2016, Toronto - Thirty-three recommendations were made Friday afternoon by the five-person coroner's jury who heard over four weeks the complex and sometimes gut-wrenching details of seven fire fatalities in Ontario in 2012 and 2013.Among the recommendations are consultation about mandatory sprinklers in new construction; more – and better – public education and, as expected, targeted to specific groups; and consideration by municipalities and fire departments of re-allocating money to prevention and inspections, from suppression.Training, too, is at the crux of the lengthy list of recommendations, given the lack of mandatory course requirements for fire dispatchers in Ontario, a fact that was widely reported by rather gobsmacked reporters covering the inquest, to a rather naive public.Indeed, the jury recommends that the province institute mandatory certification for inspectors, public educators and communicators – finger pointed directly at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. It is rather flummoxing that the people, as the jury said, "whose primary job function it is to perform fire inspections, public education and/or communication" in Ontario require no standardized, mandatory certification. That said, of course, neither do firefighters.The jury also calls for collaboration between police and fire on training for fire responses, and municipal websites and literature to explain levels of service, response times, and coverage – full-time, part-time or volunteer.What became overwhelmingly clear to the jury during the inquest into separate fires in Whitby and East Gwillimbury in which three teens and four members of one family perished, was the lack of public understanding of the consequences of lightweight construction, the complexity of a fire-department response from the 911 call to water on the fire, and the need to be out of a burning structure before the trucks arrive.While witnesses testified that they understood their municipalities' levels of service, it became clear during the inquest that few people outside the fire service recognize the rescues on Chicago Fire are fiction, and that smoke kills people who fail to properly protect themselves with alarms and a well-practiced escape plan.Re-allocating money to public education from suppression, as the jury recommends municipalities and fire departments consider doing, is about as likely to happen as the end of 24-hour shifts.I know this because, as I sit in the foyer outside the OAFC trade show looking at billions of dollars worth of fire equipment – trucks, hoses, thermal imagers, PPE with integrated TICs – it occurs to me (actually, it was pointed out by an observant deputy chief) that of the hundreds of booths at the show, few, if any, are dedicated to prevention and public education; it's about the business of suppression.But here's what no one's saying out loud: Had Benjamin Twiddy, 19, Marilee Towie, 17, and Holly Harrison, 18, thrown the burning towel that started the fire in the second-storey Whitby apartment into the sink rather than down the stairway, or sheltered in a room with a closed door, and had the Dunsmuir family had a working, main-floor smoke alarm, the outcome may have been different.People are responsible for their own well-being and survival. Danielle Migueis, the 911 call-taker who answered Robert Dunsmuir's cell phone call from his parents burning East Gwillimbury home said although she wasn't required to do so, she used common sense, called back after the line was disconnected, and tried to help the family to find a way out of the house.Sadly, common sense can't be legislated.
April 25, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - I had the honour of presenting an overview of the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) program to the Muskoka Association of Fire Chiefs at their meeting in Bracebridge last week.It was an honour for two reasons: the first is the topic of conversation – the R2MR program, which is near and dear to my heart. I am always happy to enlighten fire-service members on the fundamentals of the program and to help create interest and enthusiasm surrounding it, because I believe in it and its effectiveness so emphatically.The second reason it was an honour is because I am always grateful to spend time with other firefighters and officers – I have great respect for this profession in all of its forms – especially those who have worked their way up to such a multi-faceted position as chief.Those in the fire service who have moved into senior officer positions are generally those who have been in the service for many years, put forth consistent effort to pursue training, education and personal and professional growth, and bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to any conversation. They’ve seen a lot, they’ve done a lot, they know a lot, and there is a lot to learn from them.As I listened to the chiefs discuss co-ordinating the R2MR training for the six fire departments in the District of Muskoka, I was struck by the collaborative effort and dedication to working cohesively to bring the training to all of their fire-service members.Any new program or training has some implementation barriers, and it’s up to the leaders of the fire departments to be the agents of change. These leaders are clearly demonstrating their commitment to their firefighters, officers and departments as a whole, and to me, that’s what the fire service is all about.Something I’ve always loved about the fire service is how fortunate we are to be able to meet and/or work with members of other fire departments by taking courses at the fire college and other approved training facilities. We have the opportunity to create networks across the province with other members, who often become lifelong friends and colleagues. It really is a brotherhood and it extends across borders too. We face the same issues, the same challenges and the same struggles.I’m not sure if departments in the United States are implementing a version of the R2MR, but I hope they have some sort of mental-health awareness training program in place. We’ve all seen the staggering numbers of emergency services personnel taking their own lives.Regardless of what fire department you’re on, what country you live in, and whether you’re male or female, if you’re in the fire service (and I’m assuming you are if you are reading this), you are part of the brotherhood and we need to take care of our own.I hope that you too have leaders such as the ones I have in my area, and the ones whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through the R2MR trainers program, but keep in mind, you don’t have to be an officer to be a leader.As leadership author Robin Sharma says: “Lead without a title.”Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen
While tens of thousands of Albertans continue the recovery process, amazing stories are emerging about the heroic, selfless actions of citizens, responders and civic leaders who all pulled together to save Fort McMurray.
I was in Alberta the week wildfire decimated parts of Fort McMurray. A handful of firefighters and officers who were supposed to be at the Northern HEAT conference in Peace River had been dispatched to Fort Mac, packing pick-up trucks and answering the call.
Training officer Gary Mosburger’s job is to make sure everyone goes home, and that means keeping up with technology that can potentially save firefighter lives.
We’ve all said it – we’ve said it to new recruits and to our buddies on the job as we exchange stories and revel in the amazement of a great call: this job is like winning the lottery!
I remember, from when I was young, the deafening sound of the fire-station siren piercing the quiet town’s ambiance. You couldn’t mistake this siren for a train; you knew the firefighters were responding to an emergency. I would watch the green lights from the vehicles from across the creek that ran behind our house; it was so quiet I could hear the car doors slam as one by one the responders would show up to the station and get on the trucks. A few moments later the diesel engines rumbled out to the ramp and I could see the flashing red lights of the trucks making their way onto the street. While watching the convoy of fire trucks I remember saying to myself as a 10-year-old boy, “I’m going to do that.”So the ball was set in motion from a young age. Fresh from college and pretty much thinking I had the world by the tail, the department was recruiting so I thought I would throw in my application and give back a few years of community service. It was February 2007 when I started as a probationary firefighter at my hometown volunteer station. If you told me as a rookie that I was to be promoted to acting captain and then captain in seven years, I would have laughed and said “I’m not going near the front hot seat.”My station has 25 personnel assigned to it; I think most of us seem to forget that we were all the newest members of the department at one point or another. Even if you have academy training, or come from another department or station within the municipality, you still are tasked with learning names, truck numbers and where everything is.          I’m here to tell you when you promote up and take a new helmet colour, chances are you are the newest member again but in a whole different world. I promoted up after my wife constantly wanted to know when I was going to apply to become a captain. There were many excuses and many reasons (no good ones, just ask her!) and I talked myself out of the application process. I was comfortable riding in the back, facing backwards and being a worker bee. But deep down I was tempted to take a look at what the front seat had in store. It was 2014 when the chief notified me that I was officially taking over a vacant posting as an acting captain that I had applied for previously. Many different feelings came over me when I saw this. I knew I was ready for the position, but it felt like stepping into the batter’s box. I needed to put some numbers on the board, so to speak. I wondered how the other firefighters would react to me switching helmets, especially the ones who had more years on the fire department than I had on this Earth (literally).  I honestly can’t say that everyone was shaking my hand and helping me move my gear down to my new locker with the other officers, but I felt that I had earned the respect of most of the firefighters on my department and to this day I think that’s true. I know I can sit down and shoot the breeze with our oldest member and walk away with something from the conversation. The department you work for has a buffet of knowledge to offer from your various members; try to fill your plate with as much of that as you can. I have members on my department who have been fighting fires for more than 40 years and some for just a few months, but there is a valuable perspective that can be taken from each member.  To the newly promoted officers or even the ones who are thinking about the process of promoting in a volunteer department: your role in the fire service will change. You will probably be judged on your past experience, years of service or even age by your peers. Be prepared for more paperwork. Be prepared to read more and educate yourself on your own time. And if you get the nod to step up to a new, higher rank, tighten up your batter’s gloves, step in the box and get ready to swing away. That front officer’s seat looked like the next step to me from the back of the truck and it wasn’t going to fill itself.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   or twitter@jacejclark
On Feb. 4, 2007, Winnipeg firefighter Lionel Crowther experienced what no firefighter ever wants to experience – he was badly burned.
The following situation is probably familiar: it was a good structure fire; all of the teams performed as expected; few mistakes were made overall; a lot of property was saved; and, most importantly, nobody was hurt. Now, it’s time to clean up. Two firefighters are assigned to walk around and through the scene one last time to check for any equipment that might have been left behind.
Everyone loves shiny, new gadgets. But does the latest and (supposedly) greatest equipment make your firefighters better? There’s a difference between technology and innovation: technology enables innovation, and innovation can make a difference to your crews’ performance.Join Toronto Deputy Chief Darrell Reid and Scott Safety’s Brad Harvey as they dissect the fascinating world of fire-service innovation – from the Internet of things to sensors, signals and analytics – and look at advancements that can boost your team’s performance.The free webinar, hosted by editor Laura King, will be held Thursday, March 24, 2-3 p.m. EST.Busy that day? Sign up anyway – it's free! – and receive an archived link to the webinar to watch at your convenience. Darrell Reid began his emergency-services career in 1989, and joined the Strathcona County Emergency Services (SCES) as a firefighter paramedic in 1992. He was a member of the Executive of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2461 from 1997 until 2003, and served as president for three years. In 2004, Darrell was promoted to deputy chief of operations for SCES and in 2008 to 2013, served as fire chief. Darrell holds an MBA from the University of Alberta and a graduate certificate in emergency management from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was hired as a deputy Chief for Toronto Fire Services in 2013. Brad Harvey is a member of the business intelligence team for Scott Safety and is responsible for the Global Fire Services Strategy. Brad served as a firefighter/paramedic for nearly 16 years before transitioning to the private sector 10 years ago, where he has been very involved with the evaluation, development and introduction of various technology-related products. Brad also authored numerous articles, for a variety of publications, related to first responders and technology as well as a monthly Thermal Imaging column in Firehouse Magazine for six years.
Every once in a while a good spring cleaning is needed to tidy up and declutter our environments. For fire departments, spring cleaning is more than just sweeping and dusting; while it’s important to clean off the shelves, the real purpose of spring cleaning is much more valuable.
It’s our mandate to keep you informed about innovations – robotic technology, for example, that’s useful in certain dangerous firefighting or hazmat situations.
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.
January 2016 - We had just finished a two-week drought – zero calls for the Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service in Alberta. It was Friday night, Nov. 15, and we were all talking about how people must have settled down and we were finally going to enjoy some quieter times. A couple of hours later, at around 6 p.m., we were paged to a confirmed fire at a single-family dwelling. Off we went, loaded up our initial attack truck with a few guys and blazed over, loaded up our ladder truck and tried to find a spot, and finally took the main fire truck and a few extras in a pickup. 
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!).
My wife and I celebrated our recent wedding with a two-week honeymoon adventure in Thailand. One of the main reasons we chose this beautiful country (which we would highly recommend to anyone!) and travelled halfway around the world was, of course, the food!
Have you ever tested the amount of heavy metal you have in your body? Do you know which toxic elements are stored deep inside your tissues? These are very important questions all people should ask themselves, but it’s even more important that firefighters do so.
How do I start lifting weights? What are the best exercises to learn? How do I know if I am doing things properly? These are questions that everyone who works out had to learn at one time. Some folks had a friend or professional help them at the beginning, but for many people a strength program is daunting and frustrating, and often leads to quitting.
The fire hall and the fitness centre both provide opportunities to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. As with the fire hall, the water cooler in the gym is where I find myself continuously learning each and every day. I’m always interested to see what other trainers are trying, not just with their clients’ programs, but also with their personal programs. The latest buzz in the fitness world is on exercise tempo. Knowledge of tempo training has been around for decades, but it has become more prevalent lately in structured training programs.
Most of us indulge over the summer months in barbeques, ice cream and perhaps the occasional cold beer or margarita.
The sandwich has long been revered as a quick, comforting and portable meal, found everywhere from children’s lunch boxes to the menus of fine-dining restaurants.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the September 2015 edition of Fire Fighting in Canada. It has been updated.
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.
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.
Editor’s note: Chief Jamie Coutts’ perspective on the fire that ravaged Fort McMurray, burning 10 per cent of the city, is unique. Coutts, chief of the Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service, took his experience from the 2011 fire that decimated 40 per cent of his community to Fort Mac on May 3, with firefighters Ryan Coutts and Patrick McConnell, part of the department’s FireSmart team that was developed post-2011 and is trained in wildland and structural fire fighting, structural protection, ICS 200, emergency preparedness and other disciplines (see Tackling the interface). Coutts provides a first-hand account of his first 24 hours in Fort McMurray.We had been watching the Fort McMurray updates on our Alberta Wildfire app for a couple days, keenly aware of the fire’s proximity to the City of Fort McMurray. As the fire grew we started to wonder if anyone would call for our structure-protection trailers or crews.  Monday evening, May 2, at 10 p.m., we received a call: “Do you have a structure-protection trailer? How much do you charge per day?” And so the conversation went for about an hour back and forth. I could tell at this point there didn’t seem to be much of a worry; people in Fort McMurray were just trying to look ahead. I called in a couple of the FireSmart crew guys and we got a trailer ready, and rigged up a one-ton with a tank and pump. The call came that the Regional Emergency Operations Centre (REOC) would decide at 7 a.m., and let us know.At 7 a.m. exactly on May 3 we received a call. The REOC would like us to deliver a trailer to Fort McMurray and drop it off. After that, we would be released to head home. Patrick McConnell, Ryan Coutts and I decided we would pack a bag and take our wildfire gear; we had been down this road before and decided better safe than sorry. We were on the road by 8 a.m. and drove straight to Fort McMurray, listening to broadcasts about the fire and changes from the previous night as we went. There were so many similarities to the Slave Lake fire in 2011 that we started to talk about what deploying the gear would look like, and what challenges we would face from all the people and organizations involved. We discussed the fact that we would be heading into a situation that people still felt was under control and that we would have to sell our way in.We arrived at 12:30 p.m. and headed into the REOC: it was like walking into an ant hill – people were everywhere, maps, updates, Smart Boards. We were asked to drop off the trailer and lock it up. Keys would be given to operations and we could go. We went out to the trailer and turned our radios to the Fort McMurray frequency for agriculture and forestry and started listening to the reports.  Things were definitely heating up. We went back in and asked to do an orientation with the crews that would be using this equipment. The ops manager said he would call them all up, and we could do the orientation right in the parking lot. Shortly after 1 p.m., about 40 people showed up; we talked briefly about being prepared, having LACES (lookouts, anchors, communications, escape routes, and safety zones), talked about what could be saved and what couldn’t if the fire hit the city, and what the conditions might be like. From there Patrick and Ryan did a quick orientation on equipment, setup, and systems. I saw Fort McMurray Chief Darby Allen walking back into the REOC from outside, caught up to him, introduced myself and said, “You will be under immense political pressure during this event – evacuate, don’t evacuate, priorities will be shifting. Follow your heart, follow your gut and do what you know is right.” We left it there and he went back inside. The media was humming around, and you could tell from the smoke column and radio traffic that things were going sideways. The projected wind at the morning briefing was out of the south east, switching to a stronger wind out of the south west. We could see outside that the wind would push the fire past the city limits and then slam the whole side of the fire into the southern neighbourhoods.We went back into the REOC and told Assistant Deputy Chief Jody Butz at operations that orientation was done and that the Fort McMurray firefighters were taking the trailer. He thanked us and then Chief Allen asked if we would stick around and discuss some of what Slave Lake had been through and look at some operations with the team. (I didn’t tell him at the time but Patrick, Ryan, and I had talked about this outside, and with conditions the way they were, there was absolutely no way we were going anywhere. We had even put our wildfire gear on already.) We waited inside with one of the deputies for a chance to talk to Chief Allen. The forestry manager, Bernie Schmitte, and the operations chief, Butz, were having a briefing meeting while the deputy chief talked about the layout of the city and the neighbourhoods in front of the fire. As we looked out the second storey window at the fire, I excused myself and headed to the operations briefing. I excused myself again and asked the gentlemen if I could interrupt. I had been watching the conditions and hearing the radio chatter and said that I knew we needed to hurry with structure protection; they handed me a map, listened to the plan, immediately endorsed it, and told us where to go to get more help. We left immediately and headed to Station 1 downtown.At Station 1, fire-service personnel were trying to get organized and keep a helicopter pad free. Firefighters from the city and region were assembling, and gear was being organized. We dumped overnight bags from our one ton, grabbed cases of water (we knew we would need lots) and were assigned another seven firefighters to go with us to meet other firefighters and our structure-protection trailer in Beacon Hill (the first area to be slammed by fire front). Evacuated people were streaming down all lanes as we tried to slowly creep to Beacon Hill. Once we were on Beacon Hill Drive, we tried to find our structure-protection trailer, which was with our friend Dave Tovey from Fort McMurray Fire. We stopped by a park that would provide some distance from where the fire would hit and, along with dozens of Fort Mac firefighters, we started evacuating people (some were still in their houses, others were trying to load motorcycles and campers). The Fort Mac firefighters with us quickly rounded up animals that had been left behind or had been trapped with no owners able to get to them. Then, the set up and fire fight started. The wind picked up, and the sparks started landing. This was the point at which our experience in Slave Lake started to come through for us. It was simple: save the houses that aren’t on fire yet. Hit the spot fires, but once a house goes up, move on – there are just too many to fight. This is an impossible thought to process when you are a firefighter: we put house fires out, period; so when we are asked or told to let some homes burn so others can be saved, it’s tough to absorb and accept. Patrick and Ryan left and hooked up with the Fort McMurray crews that had our structure-protection trailer. It was too late to deploy in that area so they fought the fires they could, set up hoses where they could and worked with the Fort Mac crews. I didn’t want to be separated from my guys, but I knew their training and experience was needed where they were. I was lucky to be with a large group of volunteers called in from smaller Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo halls – the new recruit class (five weeks in, I was told) and a few captains and training officers. It was all a little overwhelming and I remember thinking “Were these the looks on our faces when Slave Lake burned?” I just kept telling them, “Keep up the good work, fight the fires that need to be fought, what you are doing is saving lives and houses; just keep going.” At one point there was an evacuation and we had to work through that; it was very stressful working through the fact that we were safe, yet surrounded by dozens of burning homes. We worked it through command, and were able to stay in the area. (When I went back days later there were houses left right where this group of firefighters had been fighting fires. It was nice to know we won the battle for a few dozen homes.)After a couple of hours of working in Beacon Hill, I called Patrick and Ryan and we headed up to the REOC. We talked briefly with Chief Allen and Chief Butz about critical infrastructure and what has to be left for a city to survive. Somehow, through all of this, the city crews had kept the water going to most of the hydrants, and dozens of fire departments were on the way to help. We were tasked with protecting the hospital. We went back to Station 1, grabbed a few guys from Albian Sands Fire and headed to the hospital. Short on gear, we talked with people from the hospital, and received help from the security and maintenance staff. We were able to use a small amount of equipment that Albian had brought and hoses from the hospital to get good coverage of the entire roof of the hospital. You could hear, and see, that just like in Slave Lake, this fire had turned into dozens of small battles across a rather huge battlefield.Just as we finished getting the roof covered, Capt. Pat Duggan of the Fort McMurray Fire Department came up to the hospital to take command of this area. (Duggan had been married to my cousin, and quickly recognized Ryan and me; funny how small the fire world is. We talked about whether all his family members were out, and they were.) Duggan spotted smoke and fire in a nearby neighbourhood and left with Ryan and Patrick in our one-ton truck: the three of them started that fire fight with a garden hose and a booster reel off the small tank in that one-ton. Duggan quickly called in reinforcements and within minutes had started a fire fight that would last hours and save an entire downtown neighbourhood. From there, we went to a backyard fire with another Fort Mac officer and knocked that down with a garden hose and booster reel again. I was so impressed with the Fort Mac utilities people – all that water being used and yet they somehow kept it going. We went back to the hospital where ash was falling constantly now while the Abasand neighbourhood burned. (Along with half our structure-protection equipment – we didn’t find that out until later). It sounded like a war zone – fireworks from the store going off, propane tanks, oxygen/acetylene torch tanks going off. The smoke was thick and the ash was intense. Duggan called me right then; we talked about the area he was in and hung up. I didn’t get a chance to see him or talk to him again during our time in Fort Mac, but I’m proud to say we worked together.   View the embedded image gallery online at: http://www.cdnfirefighter.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=latest&layout=latest&Itemid=1#sigProGalleria0a3963a83b While we waited for trucks to arrive from Slave Lake, we stopped at Station 1 for some water and a bite to eat. As I was walking to the washroom I almost ran smack into a horse.  That’s right – a horse. The owners could not get to their trailer so they evacuated with their two horses to the hall. Add that to the list of things I’ve never seen before. At about 11 p.m. our two trucks arrived from Slave Lake. We checked in at Station 1, picked up firefighter Chad Grunow with Fort McMurray Fire, and headed up into Thickwood for our next assignment. (Grunow stayed with our crews through our entire time in Fort Mac, guiding us, saving his beloved city, even letting our firefighters stay with him in his home; a true friend and a heck of a firefighter.) This assignment was to assist with putting out some wildland fires that kept sneaking up to fence lines and starting structural fires. That completed, we assisted in a neighbourhood where about 10 trailers were on fire. From memory, I believe there were crews from Fort Mac and its new recruit class, Syncrude, Albian Sands, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Slave Lake and Anzac, and I’ve probably missed a few. It was amazing to see all of these people working together trying to save this neighbourhood. This went on until 4 a.m. ,when we finally headed down to MacDonald Island. We parked our trucks, found cots, and stayed there breathing in thick smoke for a couple hours.  I never thought I’d see something like Slave Lake again – we trained hard, shared the lessons learned and participated in every after-action review we could find to make sure an it wouldn’t happen again. I believe the days, weeks, months and years ahead will be even tougher on the people of Fort McMurray than they were here in Slave Lake (it’s hard to believe but I’m sad to say I’m sure of it), and that the after-action reviews will be gruelling, but always remember this: no one died in Fort McMurray (although there was a tragic loss during the evacuation and those young adults will never be forgotten) and 90 per cent of the city was saved, including all critical infrastructure. The people of Fort McMurray will rebuild. A small piece of my heart will always be with them. As terrible as it was, as scary as it was, there is nowhere on Earth I would rather have been that day than in Fort McMurray, trying to help save a city with my brothers and sisters of the Fort McMurray Fire Department. Chief Allen and Chief Butz were amazing to work with; they listened and respected our views based solely on stories out of Slave Lake. In the days that followed as we took on different roles and different fire fights in the city, we worked with hundreds of firefighters from across the province. It was a different experience from Slave Lake as we were there to help in a different way – it wasn’t our city burning. The lessons captured this time will be different, will be from another perspective and will no doubt lead to new ideas and solutions.  Looking forward, we need to examine evacuations. (Mandatory needs to mean mandatory, and the RCMP need legislation to enforce the evacuation.) How, and who fights these urban interface fires needs to be reviewed, and the proper training, equipment, and trucks need to be developed and purchased. Unified command between fire services and forestry needs to be solidified and adopted by all. Healthcare follow-up needs to be implemented for all people who stayed behind and came from afar to assist in extinguishing this fire. The toxins from this type of urban interface fire are not fully understood yet.In July 2011, I wrote in Canadian Firefighter: “The biggest lesson learned is we have to plan farther – when you’re in wildland areas the world is changing, the weather in the world is changing, and we have to plan with that change.”This outlook has changed the way our whole fire department operates. We were always a stay-ahead department – if one truck is good we send two, if two trucks are good we send three, and we can, because we’re a regional fire service.We can add extensive FireSmart operations to this now. I had even said if we had 300 fire trucks lined up we could not have stopped Slave Lake because of 100-kilometre-an-hour winds. If we had that many trucks lined up in Fort Mac could we have saved it all? There is no way to know for sure, but I will say these words one more time: get ahead, stay ahead.As the wildfire continued to burn, we heard the stories from firefighters involved and critical pieces that were learned from Slave Lake: use of heavy equipment to separate homes saved hundreds, or maybe even thousands of other houses; having water through thick and thin was huge – the utilities people were incredible; transportation folks made sure routes were clear and trucks were fuelled – just amazing. There will always be more to learn, but there were some lessons learned from previous fires.For our crews here in Slave Lake it had been an active spring with multiple deployments and many busy days; we think of our fellow firefighters in Fort McMurray and hope that they remembered to take care of themselves, and to take care of each other. To Chief Allen, and Chief Butz – remember to go easy on yourselves; you did a great job in an extreme environment. Jamie Coutts is the fire chief of Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service in Alberta. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow him on Twitter @chiefcoutts
Rescuers should be aware of government rulings that affect the construction of vehicles so that they can adopt new extrication strategies.
Peer pressure is present in every fire station and can contribute to dangerous situations.
Firefighters responding to motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) rarely think about scene preservation. The No. 1 concern for first responders is to get to the scene as safely as possible and to gather relevant information from dispatch while en route to help determine what actions are required by rescuers.  However, every significant MVC is potentially a crime scene, therefore it is essential that evidence can be collected. Preserving evidence is often difficult at large incidents because the first priority of emergency services is to save lives and take care of casualties. Inevitably, establishing control posts, rescuing and treating casualties, and taking steps to prevent escalation of the incident disturbs the ground at the immediate site of the incident. To prevent unnecessary destruction of evidence, incidents must be co-ordinated to protect scenes. Traffic-collision investigators jokingly refer to first responders as evidence-eradication teams. Crucial evidence from MVC scenes is often moved or destroyed by either emergency medical personnel or firefighters who are simply performing their jobs as they have been trained to do. First responders should be aware of what is involved with traffic-collision investigations in order to, when possible, preserve evidence at crime scenes. Traffic investigators often arrive at the scene when emergency-response crews are in cleanup mode, well after they have finished the job. Post-incident cleanup is one of the most crucial periods during which to preserve evidence. First responders can be great resources to traffic investigators by identifying the initial positions of patients in vehicles, seatbelt use, road and weather conditions, and providing details about how the scene was found and what was moved. With data from the rescuers, investigators can document the original position of physical evidence. Scene preservation for evidence collection is needed to: Ensure that any evidence is not contaminated. Physical evidence must be protected from accidental or intentional alteration from the time it is first discovered to its ultimate disposition at the conclusion of an investigation; Help in establishing the cause of an incident; Gather information to prevent a further incident from occurring; Accurately identify and assess the damage attributable to the incident. Evidence is gathered in variety of ways, including photographs, videos, forensics and witness statements.There are two principle types of errors that damage scenes under investigation: commission and omission.Errors of commission: occur when emergency personnel destroy existing evidence or add evidence. Examples are: Smearing fingerprints on the steering wheel, seatbelts, inner-door handles Stepping on evidence of skid marks, alcohol containers Adding your own fingerprints on the steering wheel, inner-door handles Rearranging the scene, such as picking up a cell phone from the floor of the vehicle Errors of omission: occur when personnel fail to recognize evidence. Examples are: Failure to notice odours Failure to listen to occupants or persons standing near the scene discussing the event Failure to take efforts to protect existing evidence that may otherwise be destroyed Failure to notice unusual actions or behaviours Most of these types of errors are unintentional, but they still complicate the investigation. First responders should be aware of the problems commonly found at scenes and the needs of the investigating officers to help to prevent some of these difficulties.When should first responders expect an MVC investigation? According to protocols, MVC investigations will occur when death or serious injury is expected, imminent or known to exist, someone has fled the scene and injury or death has occurred, an involved driver is believed to be intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the incident is major and of an unusual nature (coach bus, school bus, train), or the collision involves hazardous materials.First-arriving crews should: Make mental notes about the scene upon arrival. Take note of weather conditions, heat, cold, light dark/dusk, smells, noise. Make a note or inform an investigator if you need to move something such as a vehicle or pole and include it in the report. Move vehicles and debris only if a real potential danger exists. Disturb the scene as little as possible. Take photos or have a higher-ranking officer take photos as the scene or situation progresses if your department policy allows (always follow your department’s procedure for photography at scene!) Take photos if things must be moved and investigators are not yet on scene. Leave all bodies and body parts as found if possible. If bodies need to be moved to gain access to live patients, make a mental note as to the location and relay that information to the investigating officer, and included in your witness statement and fire report. Cordon off the affected area and limit access (when it is safe to do so). Do their best to preserve the integrity of evidence. Physical evidence can be very fragile; objects can be easily broken, misplaced, removed, cleaned up, destroyed and distorted. Preserve the scene until it has been photographed and recorded. Do not spread sand or hose down the road until after the scene is examined. The condition or appearance of seatbelts is also critical information for an investigator because it can reveal facts about high-speed collisions (less so for low-speed collisions). If a seatbelt is cut it is a good indicator that it was worn during the collision. However, if a person was ejected it may suggest that the belt was not worn. If rescuers cut the belt, crucial information such as blood, hair, dirt or glass can be hidden as the belt recoils back into the spool. Bruising on the patient’s shoulder closest to the door side is an indication of seatbelt use. Depending on the severity of the collision forces, a deformed steering wheel may indicate that the driver was not wearing a belt. Note that if the seatbelt pretensioners were activated during the collision, the belt will not recoil. Burst threads or fibres on the belt indicate it was under load and possibly stretched. Even the floor-mounting plates that attach the lower belt sections to the vehicle could be deformed from severe force during the collision. Other signs of seatbelt use or non-use can be verified if there has been occupant impact within the vehicle; for example, hair stuck in the plastic trim on an upper A/B pillar or dash area may suggest a person was not wearing a seatbelt during a roll-over. If rescuers use their tools in any of these areas in order to extricate a patient the metal could be distorted and evidence destroyed. If possible, the investigator should be made aware of any observed evidence. A good rule of thumb for an extrication officer is to designate dedicated debris piles of dismantled vehicle parts for each vehicle involved, facing upward to preserve crucial evidence. Rescuers may often decide to move a vehicle from its original position to reduce extrication time or to gain access to critical patients. The officer in charge should make this decision. After a vehicle is moved, mark the former positions of the wheels on the ground if possible. Tire-pressure monitoring systems – Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 138 – are mandatory on all new cars sold in the United States and while they are not required in Canada, most late-model vehicles have them. If a rescuer lets the air out of the vehicle’s tires, let the investigator know this was done intentionally for rescuer/patient safety and not as a result of the incident. Depending on the vehicle manufacturer, tire-pressure monitoring in late models will help determine tire inflation or blowout, which is recorded in the vehicle’s event data recorder (EDR) – also referred to as the black box.An EDR is a device that records technical information about the occupants and the actual vehicle for a brief period of time prior, during and after a crash, typically for a few seconds. Crash data is hard written in an EDR, meaning once it is recorded it can’t be erased, even if the battery is disconnected after the crash. However, rescuers with hydraulic tools can inadvertently crush the box, which can make it more difficult to access the information stored inside. Rescuers must do their best to avoid damaging the EDR and protect the crucial evidence. With crash data, an accident reconstructionist can determine facts about the cause. (Watch for more on EDRs in a future column.)After the extrication, the officer in charge should stop unwanted visitors from entering the cordoned-off areas. If extraneous people do have to enter the scene (i.e. tow-truck operators), make sure they are escorted to prevent them from inadvertently destroying any valuable evidence. Emergency personnel have a responsibility to properly record all of the facts surrounding a crash/incident. As difficult as it may be, firefighters must do their best to emotionally detach themselves so that reports of the incident are rational and accurate interpretations of the events. Each firefighter’s conclusions must be centred on the facts and statements gathered, heard and known to be true. For example, if I’m rendering medical care to a patient, part of my initial assessment is to establish level of consciousness. If my patient smells of alcohol and shows signs of intoxication I would need to ask certain questions to establish this fact. I cannot assume that just because I smell alcohol on the person or in the vehicle that they are indeed under the influence of alcohol. I must ask the patient if he or she have been drinking alcohol and how much had been consumed in the last couple of hours. If the patient confirms that he or she consumed alcohol, only then can I state that in my report as fact rather than an assumption. I can write, “The patient admitted to drinking alcohol,” or, “Patient had slurred speech, blood shot eyes and his breath smelled of an alcohol-like odour.” Both statements are facts and not conclusions.Traffic crashes are not accidents, but are avoidable events caused by a single variable or chain of variables. When an investigation is complete and the cause has been determined, anyone found guilty of causing the collision can be prosecuted. Investigations do not only apportion blame; from a rescuer standpoint, they can also highlight the need for improvements to road and vehicle safety to help prevent collisions. The goal of rescuers should be to assist traffic investigators in reducing traffic injuries and fatalities by addressing the factors that cause them.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
For the past eight years, this column has explored the rapid intervention team (RIT) and the many aspects of that important fire-ground assignment. As we begin a new year, I want to turn our attention from rescuing other firefighters to rescuing ourselves.
A common rescue incident in the fire service involves a person trapped underneath a motor vehicle; this may be a result of a pedestrian being struck at a road crossing, or a weekend mechanic working on the underside of a raised vehicle unattended when the support method fails. There are a few options to remove a patient from this intensive situation quickly and effectively with the least amount of danger to the victim.
In the world of technical rescue, the Stokes basket is a main piece of equipment. The basket is used for patient packaging and transfer from one elevation to another during a rope rescue, confined-space rescue, or even water rescue if it is equipped with floatation devices. Many fire departments carry Stokes baskets on their fire trucks for rescue scenarios, but this versatile piece of equipment is also valuable for the rapid intervention team (RIT).

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