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May 29, 2011, Toronto - There was good news over the weekend with the return of residents to Slave Lake and the massive effort to help these people rebuild their lives and their community.

May 29, 2011
By Laura King


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Fire Fighting in Canada
contributor and Redwood Meadows, Alta., deputy chief Rob Evans was in Slave Lake last week working dispatch. Look for his photos in the July issue of Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly. 

Meantime, our friends at Firefighters 1st (The Fire Within), are doing their bit to help the firefighters of Slave Lake who lost their homes, through a campaign to raise $20,000 – every penny of which will go to the firefighters. You can donate or buy t-shirts for your department in support of the Slave Lake firefighters here. The shirts are $25 each. The homes of at least two Slave Lake firefighters were destroyed in the wildfire. Put yourself in their shoes. Buy a shirt. Better yet, have everyone in your department buy a shirt! 

As an aside, The Canadian Press did an interesting story last week with the Canadian Forest Service’s Brian Stock, who said Canada needs a national strategy for wildfire management and it’s time for Ottawa to step up. Here’s the gist of it:

The Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy has “languished” since it was developed by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers in 2005 after wildfires devastated Kelowna, B.C., in 2003, said Stocks.

Speaking at a news conference held by the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, an independent research organization created by the insurance industry, Stocks called on the federal government to provide money for the program as it promised six years ago.

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“We had a strategy in place for the last six or seven years that we all agreed to and basically it’s languished,” said Stocks. “Now is the time to say we need to get back on track here. The federal government needs to step up and take an active role in that.”

“There’s no federal money going into this,” he added.

Sound familiar?

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A busy week ahead – a busy month, actually.

The 2011 International Conference for Fire & Rescue Executives opens today in Toronto. I’ll be there Monday and Tuesday, along with fire-service leaders from Canada, the U.S., Belgium, Ireland, and Australia. I’m particularly interested in what retired Ontario Fire Marshal Pat Burke will have to say at Monday evening’s banquet. Will keep you posted. 

I’ll be at my desk midweek before heading home to Nova Scotia Friday for FDIC Atlantic , the annual firefighter training weekend at Acadia University in Wolfville. I’m especially proud that Fire Fighting in Canada will be well represented at FDIC Atlantic by writers/presenters Dave Hodgins, Ed Brouwer, Mark van der Feyst and Vince MacKenzie, along with me and Firehall Bookstore manager Becky Atkinson. We have new Firehall.com decals to give out so be sure to drop by the Firehall Bookstore booth. Drop us a note on Facebook if you’re attending FDIC Atlantic. 

After FDIC Atlantic I’m dashing to Cape Breton for a few days, then back to Toronto before heading to Gander on June 17 for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services conference. A month later I’ll be in Fredericton for the Maritime chiefs conference. The CAFC conference in Calgary in September will be the last trip/show of the season. (And yes, for those wondering, we’re aiming to attend Firecon in Thunder Bay next year!) 

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As you can see, there aren’t enough hours in the week in these busy months of spring/summer to attend all the fire-service events to which Fire Fighting in Canada is invited, but we try.  

Last Wednesday, I joined the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) – Canada Branch – for its annual educational seminar on the 35th floor of a tower at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. The view was fantastic, the seminars were enlightening and the networking opportunities were plentiful. (Fire Fighting in Canada columnist Peter Sells sits on the IFE council, hence our connection to this innovative and committed group of fire-service professionals.) 

Toronto Fire Services Chief Bill Stewart’s updated presentation on the highrise fire at 200 Wellesley Street in September 2010 produced the anticipated mumbles of shock and amazement at the ferocity of the fire, the strength of the wind and the heat that day, the risks faced by firefighters due to hoarding, and the massive clean up. (If you haven’t seen this presentation and you have anything to do with an upcoming conference or training seminar, get on the phone to Chief Stewart and invite him to your event – your delegates will thank you.) 

Stewart’s presentation was followed by a truly eye-opening lesson by Toronto public health nurses Alanna Barr and Ulla Wise, called Understanding hoarding and the individual. While many of us are quick to judge hoarders – thanks in part to reality-TV shows about this issue – Barr and Wise explained, very patiently, that hoarding has not been classified as a disorder, rather it is considered a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it is extremely challenging for hoarders to understand the risks involved with their behaviour, and to change it.  

Nancy MacDonald, a prosecutor with the Office of the Fire Marshal, then explained the applications of Ontario’s Fire Protection and Prevention Act to hoarding, and the options for fire services when dealing with hoarders.  

It may seem like heavy lifting but the three, 45-minute presentations wrapped every aspect of hoarding into a neatly packaged, valuable lesson that efficiently and effectively gives the fire service what it needs to know about this issue. We’ll have more detail in a fall issue of Fire Fighting in Canada. 

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Lastly, here’s a twist on fire-service health and safety. 

Fire chiefs in Derbshire, England, have been told they can’t use two of their engines because they’re too noisy. The vehicles have been sitting in bays for 16 months, declared a health and safety risk for firefighters and the public.  

Even more bizarre is the fact that the engines were delivered after authorities had raised concerns about aerial rescue pumps. One vehicle had been taken out of service because it was too heavy and it was feared it could topple over at speeds of more than 15 mph. Another was said to be too big for narrow city streets.  

You can read the full story here while shaking your head . . .


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