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Laura King   

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laura-kingApril 10, 2013, Calgary, Alta. – The planning for this trip to Peace River started in November when I heard from Fire Chief Lance Bushie, who invited me to big-sky country for the 2013 Northwest Fire Conference.

April 10, 2013, Calgary, Alta. – The planning for this trip
to Peace River started in November when I heard from Fire Chief Lance Bushie,
who invited me to big-sky country for the 2013 Northwest Fire Conference.

I hadn’t been west since the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs conference in Calgary in September 2011, so the invitation
was intriguing and the timing worked – between the CAFC’s government relations
week in Ottawa in March and FDIC in Indianapolis is April – so here I am in . . .
Calgary.  I had written this on the plane
Tuesday afternoon as if I had arrived in Peace River as planned, at about
suppertime, and was going to post it Tuesday evening. If you’ve followed me on
Twitter today you know things didn’t go quite as expected.


I wasn’t going to get into the logistics of getting to Peace
River from Toronto. But given the day I’ve had and with nearly a full day’s
worth of travel still in front of me . . . well . . . The original plan –
Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Peace River – went off the rails
early Tuesday morning when the sly folks at WestJet moved the flight to another
gate about 20 minutes before departure time.

As a trained observer, I had noticed 10 minutes earlier while
enjoying my long-awaited Tims that the screen behind the WestJet desk said
Cancun-0925, rather than Calgary-Edmonton-Grande Prairie-0905, and I knew
something was up. (There had easily been 100 people in line at Tims and I’m not
exaggerating. Note to Fire Chief Dwayne Mellish in Bible Hill, N.S. – trust me,
the service is worse at the Tims at Pearson’s Terminal 3 than at Robert Stanfield

So, after 100-plus already weary travellers trudged halfway
around the terminal with backpacks and winter jackets (because we were going to
northern Alberta, not Cancun), it became clear to trained observers like me
from the notice on the screen at Gate B-22 that said Calgary-1100, that the
already long day was turning into an inconvenience for the wonderfully kind
deputy chief in Grande Prairie who was to pick me up at 0223 Mountain Daylight
Time and drive me two hours north to Peace River.

(This was despite announcements by the always-cheery Westjet
customer service people that the flight was delayed due to mechanical issues
but as yet there was no departure time. I’m not kidding – they said this repeatedly
even though the two-hour delay was posted on the screen for trained observers
to see!)

You know how you’re absolutely certain that you will end up
on the plane sitting behind the family with the not-so-well-behaved kids, and
they will recline their seat backs all the way back . . . Exactly. And, by the way, the delay was actually three hours and 20 minutes. 

OK. Enough. The last time I was in Alberta was three years
ago for the Alberta chiefs’ conference in Edmonton, during which I spent a day
at Station 1 downtown; you may remember the series of highrise fires in
municipalities I visited back then – the one that day was the most significant
of the three but there were no injuries and Edmonton Fire Rescue did its job
well. (Incidentally, my black-cloud status has since dissipated so feel free to
invite me to your department.)

I had lived in Edmonton from April 1993 until February 1995,
and worked as a reporter/trained observer and editor at the Edmonton Journal.
We had  done the tourist thing around
Banff and Jasper but hadn’t ventured much further due to my impending parental
state, so my trip into northern Alberta today was to be a first, but I had done
my homework. I was going to give you a bit of the flavour of Peace River but I
won’t see it the town about 1 a.m. Alberta time (3 a.m. to me, on Toronto time),
so we’ll save that for the next blog.

Four days of training start Wednesday morning – Drager runs
its Live Fire Training Tour, or LiFTT program, Wednesday and Thursday – then
there are concurrent hands-on and officer training programs Friday and Saturday.

I’m presenting on media coverage of the Elliot Lake mall collapse
at 0830 Friday morning, which, of course is 1030 Toronto time and therefore I
will have recovered from today’s marathon and will have had enough caffeine to
be in fine form.

Canadian Firefighter
writer Randy Schmitz and his crew of auto-ex trainers arrive Thursday to teach
Friday and Saturday – finally, I hope, a look at the Schmitz Mittz! – and
Don Henry, who wrote for years for Fire
Fighting in Canada
about trucks, will be there, sharing his wisdom.

I suspect there may be some familiar faces around this week from
High Level and other northwestern locales, many of whom I’ve met at the Alberta
chiefs conference or through Firefighters 1st (The Fire Within) at
the FDIC over the years.

Oh, and in response to my tweet Tuesday morning about the
volume of suitcase space that my Globe firefighter boots consume – they’re
brand new and, once contaminated on the training ground this week, will be cleaned and shipped
back. I did pay attention in all those OH&S presentations on hydrogen

Watch for tweets (follow me at @fireincanada) and photos on
all of our Facebook (my editor’s page, the Fire
Fighting in Canada
page and our page) and I’ll blog as often
as I can. After all, I’m a trained observer so there will be lots to tell you
about. If I ever get there . . .


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