Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Delivering excellence in firefighter education for over 15 years: A look at the Ontario Fire Academy

By Ontario Fire Academy   

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The evolution of firefighter education is an intriguing journey that Platoon Chief Dan Waters, an Instructor at the Ontario Fire Academy, explains eloquently, “Firefighter education has transformed from exclusively practical, hands-on training to a balanced combination of theoretical knowledge and science-backed approaches. It’s critical to have a strong educational foundation so that when we gain experience in the field, we understand why certain techniques work, and others don’t.”

As the firefighting landscape evolves, one institution that continues to make a distinct mark in the industry is the Ontario Fire Academy (OFA).

OFA: Training firefighters since 2008

The Ontario Fire Academy, founded in 2008, has dedicated itself to the education of firefighters. OFA has consistently aimed to ensure that its graduates are prepared to meet any challenge head-on. Through a combination of relentless determination, forward-thinking, and a deep respect for the firefighting tradition, the Ontario Fire Academy has become a beacon of excellence in the industry. The results speak volumes of the Academy’s success: with over 2000 graduates since its inception.


Retired Fire Chief Michael Molloy says that several years before he entered the fire service, firefighters were still responding to fires by riding on the rear tailboards of the fire trucks. “Although many changes have been made since then, the profession remains high risk. Education and training are at the forefront of firefighter safety. Understanding the risk is key. Management and staff at OFA are deeply embedded in the fire service and, with that, ensure that our students receive the most advanced firefighting education possible.”

“Our guiding north star is a deep sense of commitment to the success and well-being of our students and graduates,” says Raakesh Bharathi, President of Ontario Fire Academy.

A collage of engaging training scenarios at the Ontario Fire Academy. Photo Credit: Mitchell Brown

Adapting to meet industry standards: The OFA’s evolving curriculum

To stay aligned with ever-changing industry standards, the Ontario Fire Academy continuously refines and upgrades its curriculum. By concentrating on life-saving skills and exceeding the guidelines set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Academy ensures that its graduates are not only well-educated but fully prepared for real-world firefighting situations.

The commitment to education goes beyond the traditional classroom by embracing technology as a valuable ally. Students take Ontario Fire Marshal examinations online, providing instant feedback. Using computer-based quizzes to monitor student progress, the Academy can allow for early intervention when necessary.

Changes to OFA’s teaching approach are more than theoretical—they resonate within the Academy’s walls and extend into the firehouses where its graduates serve. Our faculty is made up of seasoned firefighters from 9 departments across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), who not only teach but advocate for their students. They are the ambassadors of change, introducing industry updates into the curriculum, and ensuring the Academy’s courses remain current and relevant.

Curriculum evolution is a collaborative process at OFA, bolstered by invaluable feedback from both active and retired Fire Chiefs, committed instructors, and past graduates. The Academy’s dedication to student success extends beyond graduation, with robust support offered for passing the Ontario Fire Marshal (OFM) Examinations and earning their IFSAC (International Fire Service Accreditation Congress) Certifications.

Retired Fire Chief Doug Snow shows Ontario Fire Academy student techniques on flowing water and hose handling. Photo Credit: Mitchell Brown

Harnessing practical experience: The bedrock of OFA’s education

At the Ontario Fire Academy, practical training is paramount. Students receive hands-on experience by collaborating with full-time fire departments and using their advanced training facilities. At the live fire training facility, known as the “Burn Tower”, they engage in realistic fire scenarios with designated sectors.

Another Integral part of the practical curriculum is comprehensive auto-extrication training. These are some of the many hands-on experiences that prepare students for the high-stakes, challenging scenarios they will encounter in real-world firefighting.

“Training future firefighters is about more than imparting knowledge; it’s about cultivating courage, fostering teamwork, and inspiring a commitment to service. At Ontario Fire Academy, we don’t just prepare students for a career, we prepare them for a life of dedicated service, helping and protecting others.” – Ryan Gayed, Lead Instructor, Ontario Fire Academy.

Ontario Fire Academy students, post-training, in front of the OFA fire truck at the live fire training facility. Photo Credit: Mitchell Brown

Fostering well-rounded firefighters: The OFA’s holistic approach

For the Ontario Fire Academy, training transcends just technical skills, focusing on nurturing well-rounded professionals with a strong sense of public service. Students are provided numerous opportunities to volunteer within the community, and graduates have an opportunity to get involved at the Academy itself, reinforcing OFA’s mission to shape not just firefighters but community leaders.

Campus and Operations Manager Mohit Bharti expresses the essence of this approach when he says, “My goal is to enhance the delivery of our training programs so that students can gain confidence while learning essential skills needed to become a professional firefighter, in a supportive, student-centric learning environment where everyone feels secure.”

Our graduates embody this success. One of the Academy’s alumni describes her time at OFA as life-changing. “The Ontario Fire Academy prepared me not just for the firefighting scenarios but for the overall lifestyle,” she explains. “We learned how to live like a firefighter. The experience taught me more about the fire department than anything else. Thanks to OFA, I’m excelling in my position with the City of Brampton Fire Department.” Megan W.

Bridging the gap: Specialized NFPA Certification for volunteer firefighters

OFA is also dedicated to extending our unique programs to fire departments aiming to upgrade their volunteer firefighters’ skills. These specialized NFPA certification training programs are structured to help Fire Departments across Ontario meet the 2026 certification mandate.

Spearheading firefighter education

As the Academy looks to the future, it is committed to becoming a pivotal foundational resource for students’ and graduates’ career success. Bharti says, “. We are constantly improving our programs to provide students and graduates with resources needed to set them up for success after the Academy.”

The Ontario Fire Academy’s journey is a testament to the progressive nature of firefighter education. With its comprehensive, hands-on approach to training and an unwavering dedication to student success, the OFA is set to continue shaping the industry, crafting not just graduates but accomplished firefighters.

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