Canadian Firefighter Magazine

70 plus volunteer firefighters descend on Laurier Township for training

By Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter   

Headlines News Training firefighters training volunteer

May 31, 2023, Laurier, Ont. – More than 70 firefighters from nine fire departments got to work on their various firefighting skills on the grounds of the Laurier Township Fire Department which was the site for a nine day training exercise.

Laurier Fire Chief Tim Hollands made the training exercise a reality when he secured one of the Ontario Fire College’s two Mobile Live Fire Training Units to be on site from May 20-28. Both units travel across Ontario and create several fire-related scenarios including search and rescue, exterior attacks, basic entries and fire suppression that firefighters respond to.

One of the fire services that took part in the local exercise was the Magnetawan Fire Department.

Its Deputy Fire Chief Joe Readman evaluated how well three firefighters reacted to evacuating a “building” when it was no longer safe to be inside. The key was getting the evacuation word to the firefighters which was through radio communication.

But there are times when in a real situation firefighters inside a burning building can’t hear their radios well enough to understand what they are being told. The fire departments have a fall back system and it’s sounding the large horns mounted outside the fire engines.

“What we simulated in the unit was a basic primary search of a first floor building,” Readman said. “They went in the unit, got to its back side and then we imitated an emergency traffic evacuation scenario. We began broadcasting the evacuation order first over the radio.”

Readman said in the scenario, the firefighters could hear something over the radio but couldn’t quite make out what was being said.

“That’s when we began blasting the horn for 30 seconds,” he said. “They heard the horn right away and knew there was some kind of “emergency” and they had to bail out, which they did. The horn was the cue that the “building” was losing its structural integrity and that it could collapse or an explosion was about to occur.”

Readman said in a real fire situation, the firefighters would come out of the building and then switch modes to attacking it from the outside until it was safe to re-enter the structure. In terms of hearing the horn and getting out of the unit, Readman says the firefighters executed the training exercise maneuver perfectly.

Two of the firefighters Readman oversaw were from the Kearney Fire Department and the third was from the Perry Fire Department. Readman says Magentawan, Perry and Kearney in addition to the fire departments in Burk’s Falls and McMurrich/Monteith “work very closely together” and share a regional training officer who trains the volunteer firefighters at all five departments to the same standard.

Readman says this level of training makes it possible for the members of all five services to work together interchangeably and makes it easier for one or more departments to help another department fight a fire in their community.

Readman says the area fire departments were “very fortunate” to have access to the Ontario Fire College’s training unit in Laurier.

“It opened up a lot of avenues for the departments to get to use it who normally might not have access to it,” he said. “So instead of fire departments getting it each one at a time, it got to be used by a number of us all at once.”

The other surrounding fire departments that used the mobile unit were from Powassan, East Ferris, Chisholm and Marten River north of North Bay. Laurier firefighters did not use the mobile unit because they are trained only for exterior and not interior attacks. But their chief says the nine day event was still a “learning experience” for his firefighters.

“We watched how different fire teams work and I think we’ll be able to adapt some of what we saw to our own program,” Hollands said.

Hollands said if the area firefighters want to train on the mobile unit again, he will apply for its return since the Laurier Fire Department has large enough grounds to accommodate the equipment. Hollands added the training event also allowed many of the surrounding fire departments to finally see the training facility his firefighters created last year next to the fire department.

The facility includes an auto extrication pad paved like a highway and includes a steel guard rail. There is also a C-can which can accommodate live burns, a large water trailer, a burn tank and derelict cars.

“We heard comments that some of the firefighters want to come back and use some of our props,” Hollands said.

The local training facility was created in response to the Ontario Fire College closing its training facility in Gravenhurst during the summer of 2021.

Hollands says creating the local training facility and seeing not only how the Laurier firefighters use it for maneuvers but to also see that surrounding departments want to also use it gives him a sense of “accomplishment and validation” for pursuing the project.

-North Bay Nugget

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