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Editor’s blog


September 14, 2014
By Laura King


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Sept. 14, 2014, Toronto – Talk about a snapshot of the Canadian fire service.  

 I’m between flights at Pearson International Airport, waiting to go to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs conference in Ottawa, having flown from FireCon in Thunder Bay this morning.

Sept.
14, 2014, Toronto – Talk about a snapshot of the Canadian fire service.  

I’m
between flights at Pearson International Airport, waiting to go to the Canadian
Association of Fire Chiefs conference in Ottawa, having flown from FireCon in
Thunder Bay this morning.

There
will be important people in Ottawa – presidents of most provincial fire chiefs
associations, most of the fire marshals/commissioners from across the country,
high-profile speakers. There will be hefty issues on the table – Lac-Megantic
and transportation of dangerous goods, diversity in fire, recruitment and
retention.

There
were important people in Thunder Bay too. Laura Edwards, for example, a
volunteer firefighter with the Township of King – which is north of Toronto and
about 1,350 kilometres from Thunder Bay. Edwards and her husband, Rudy – also a
VFF with King – booked sitters for their three children, paid their own way,
and spent the weekend training. Laura's Twitter feed
said it all: “I’m done, I’m done. PubEd Level 1 at #FireCon2014.”

I
walked by Laura in the hallway Friday and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw
her shoulder flash. “King?” I said, “You’re from King?” (Hmm, wonder why that
jumped out at me?) Edwards explained on the plane today, that FireCon – the
annual training weekend in northwest Ontario – is one of the few opportunities
to efficiently complete the public ed course while networking with firefighters
and fire-service leaders from across the province.

All
241 delegates to FireCon did exactly what the Edwards did – gave up a weekend
to improve their skills, skills they voluntarily provide to their communities.
The level of training at the Thunder Bay training centre yesterday – with
instructors from Toronto, the Office of the Fire Marshal, Thunder Bay Fire, Texas,
CP Rail – was as impressive as any I’ve seen in Toronto or Wolfville,
N.S., or Peace River, Alta.

As
retired Washington, D.C., chief Dennis Rubin – a keynote speaker in the
leadership track in Thunder Bay – said on the flight today, FireCon is a true
testament to the Canadian fire service. Like me, Rubin gets frustrated with
negativity and pettiness in certain elements of the fire service; it’s
refreshing, he said, to see such committed volunteers drive for miles (um,
kilometres, chief!), or fly most of the way across the province, spend their
own money, and give up a weekend in September to improve their skills so they
can give more to their communities. Most of the firefighters in Thunder Bay
were not looking to become career firefighters ­– they just want to be better
firefighters.

Tim
Beebe (who I know I’ve mentioned in three blogs in a row!), who was in Thunder
Bay as a student rather than instructor for the first time in a long time,
experienced an even more poignant moment yesterday during the positive pressure
attack hands-on session. Although Tim was in the class to learn rather than
instruct, he was in a group with a young, new, keen firefighter and couldn’t
help but seize an opportunity to let the new kid on the nozzle. A few practices
out back to get more comfortable with the hoseline, and Tim let the fella lead
the attack team, with his hand on his shoulder and his voice of experience in
the kid’s ear. I’m not sure who was more stoked, Tim or the young fella. 

Back
to FireCon. There was a two-day session in Thunder Bay on PPA/SCBA for new
firefighters. I’ve seen this before – in Quinte West a few years ago; complete
chaos the first time the rookies try to don their gear, but steady improvement
over time and comfortable, capable men and women after a few tries with
positive feedback and encouragement from instructors. It’s tough to do that in
two hours on a Tuesday night.

FireCon
celebrates its 25th anniversary next year and the six-person
organizing team – Kenora Chief Warren Brinkman, Thunder Bay Chief John Hay,
Manitouwadge Chief Owen Cranney, Atikokan Chief Garth Dyck, Neebing Chief Dale
Ashbee and Rainy River Chief Gerry Armstrong – who, by times, may be short on
details but are long on content and delivery! – promised this morning over
breakfast that it would be bigger and better. I have no doubt that will be the
case. I also think there’s a scheme afoot for a some kind of presentation on
fire and media . . . hmmm, I wonder who could do that?

My
flight to Ottawa – where I lived three different times for a total of 11 years ­–
takes off shortly; several Fire Fighting
in Canada
and Canadian Firefighter
writers are already there, along with sales manager Catherine Connolly, bookstore
manger Becky Atkinson, vendors (many who were also in Thunder Bay) and chiefs
from coast to coast to coast.

There
will be no dirty bunker gear or burning pallets or expandable foam or positive
pressure fans in downtown Ottawa. There will be uniforms and some pomp and
circumstance, experience, networking, problem solving, planning and
politicking. Quite a contrast to Laura Edwards and the young kid on the nozzle
and Beebe’s ear-to-ear grin as he doffed his BA and bunker jacket, leaned
against the side of the training centre in the noon-hour sun, eating a sandwich
and beaming after having made some kid’s day.

A
snapshot? Or a picture worth 1,000 words?

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 


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