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From the Editor: October 2013

Ian Bolton approached me more than a year ago, out of the blue via e-mail, about writing for our magazines.

September 26, 2013
By Laura King


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Ian Bolton approached me more than a year ago, out of the blue via e-mail, about writing for our magazines. Bolton is a firefighter in North Vancouver, and a protégé of Peter McBride, the Ottawa Fire Services fire-safety/fire-behaviour guru.

Bolton and McBride are cut from the same cloth: their mission is to educate. And while McBride’s schedule is overwhelming, Bolton has committed to writing a series for us on fire dynamics and fire behaviour.

Bolton’s first piece in the series, a column, ran in the September issue of Fire Fighting in Canada  – you can find it online at www.firefightingincanada.com. It explains the challenge of opening the collective minds of the Canadian fire service to embrace new research and – wait for it – change the way fires are fought. 

Bolton’s cover story for this issue – Fire behaviour, Understanding the perils of new construction – may be a refresher for some of you who have taken courses and heard presentations on voids and lightweight trusses, but Bolton has convinced me that not enough Canadian firefighters know enough about the new research on fire behaviour and dynamics, and that using these pages to share that information will potentially save lives. I’m all for that.

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Hand in hand with firefighter education about new construction, research and tactics, of course, is public education. It’s imperative that people understand how quickly these new homes burn and how little time they have to get out.

We’ve been fortunate, for the last two years, to have Ken Sheridan’s passion for fire prevention and public ed in our pages. Ken, like me, is what I like to call a self-discloser: he’s not shy about letting others know what he thinks, and why he thinks and feels the way he does.

Indeed, when Ken first started writing, he said what many in fire believe: that public-education/fire-prevention is the poor cousin of suppression, which, in many cases is true, given the overt lack of funding for PE-FP programs.We’re going to help to shift that paradigm.

Ken has poured out his heart in his column, telling personal stories of anguish and success.

The e-mails Ken has received in reaction to his stories, observations and calls for action were overwhelmingly positive and personal – readers clearly related to Ken’s commitment to fire prevention and public education and his frustration with the lack of funding and support.

Ken’s final Fully Engaged column is on page 6 and it’s a delightful read – as always – that will make you think.

We will introduce a new public education column in January and we’re going to lean a bit harder in that direction. With consultants recommending composite departments over career to save salary costs, headlines such as “Unattended cooking causes Winnipeg house fire,” on our website, and budget cuts and arbitration awards resulting in two on a truck in some municipalities – not four, not three, just two – it’s clear that the first line of defence is critical.

In Ontario, a new model to help fire chiefs evaluate fire risks in their communities is expected to be rolled out in November by the Office of the Fire Marshal and the fire chiefs association. Coupled with that integrated risk management tool is a shift in focus to fire prevention and public education from suppression or response. It’s going to be imperative, then, that public educators reach all demographics and, particularly, at-risk populations, and have the knowledge and tools to do so. We’d like you to help us help the Canadian fire service embrace this change.

If your department is doing something innovative, call, e-mail (contact information is to the right), Tweet (@fireincanada), post on our Facebook pages, or stop me at the next conference.

Change can be challenging, but only if we let it. 


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