June 25, 2013, Gravenhurst, Ont. – Day 1 of FPO 501 Advanced Fire Prevention Theory. I was a little unsure how the day would go as it has been a few years since my last trip to the Ontario Fire College and more than a few since I took my last fire-prevention course. I wondered what all had changed.
Take the Ontario Fire Code itself for example. The last fire code I used on a course was the 1997 edition. It was updated in 2007, so that was the first thing with which I had to reacquaint myself, and the pre-class assignment took care of that. Luckily, things hadn’t changed that much and I found it easier than I had anticipated to get back into it.
Next obstacle . . . the FPO 501 course builds on the fundamentals learned in the FPO 301 and FPO 302 courses, which many of my classmates have taken in the last year or two. I, however, took them in 2002 and 2003 – 13 years ago. My memory fails me at the best of times so I wondered if there would even be anything there to build on; I was afraid it would be more like pouring water into a sieve.
Again, I was happy to see that it was pretty much a matter of picking up where I left off. I had more anxiety over figuring out what to wear to class than I did with settling back in to the classroom environment at the fire cottage . . . oops, I mean fire college. Easy mistake, it is cottage country after all. Can’t think of a nicer place to go to learn, even if it meant using my holidays to go, as many volunteer firefighters often do.
It must be something only a member of the fire service can understand because my boss at my “real job” thinks I’m nuts for spending my holidays in such a way. I admit, I questioned my decision too at one point when the weather turned nice for the first time this summer.
There were a few changes to the course work load too, but positive ones from my perspective, such as no more “homework” that needed to be completed outside of class hours, and, even better, no post-course assignment. I recall the post-course assignment being a doozy (that’s a technical term) in the past.
The big change, of course, is the switch to NFPA standards from the Ontario Firefighter Curriculum. We spent the first hour of our day discussing the change and what it means for anyone enrolled in the current diploma programs at the Ontario Fire College. Although we don’t have all the answers yet, as the switch over is still in the early stage, the bottom line is that the NFPA certification programs will be streamlined and hopefully, simplified, for all of us endeavouring to reach our respective goals.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the whole experience of attending courses up there. The classroom dynamic is one of the things that I love about the college, with the mixture of full-time and volunteer firefighters, officers, and chiefs.
I’m always amazed by the myriad classmates in any course I’ve taken at the college. The years of experience ranging from one year to 20, and yet, here we all are, learning the same fundamentals.
Learning is a lifelong endeavour in the fire service, and I’m very proud to be a part of something that continues to evolve, just like the people in it.
Jennifer Mabee is a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario. She began her fire career with the Township of Georgian Bay in 1997 and became the department's fire prevention officer in 2000 and a captain in 2003. She was a fire inspector with the City of Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services before taking time off to focus on family, and is excited to be back at it. E-mail her at
and follow her on Twitter at @jenmabee.
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