Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Q&A with Chief Training Officer Bryan Edge

Laura Aiken   

Features Uncategorized Training Week firefighter training

Bryan Edge is the chief training officer with Six Nations Fire and Emergency Services in Ontario. Read the interview below or click on the audio highlights for a conversation on virtual classrooms, live fire training and staying motivated. [This transcript has been edited for clarity and condensed]

Audio highlights: Listen in!

On teaching fire behaviour:

On virtual classrooms:

On live burns in firefighter training:



 Laura: Hi Bryan. Would you please tell us a little about your fire department?

Bryan: Six Nations Fire and Emergency Services is a composite department. We have four shifts of full-time firefighters and then we have a composite crew of volunteers. We’re going through the recruitment process, so we have 16 new recruits that will bring us up to about 20 volunteers in total. We provide anything from rescue, MVCs, medical, fire, wildland water rescues; we cover the whole gambit in our responses. Our main headquarters is out of Station 1, and we have three remote stations throughout the territory. Our fifth station is our training academy. There are no actual volunteers there, it’s just where we do our training.

Laura: How long have you been in the fire service?

Bryan: I started in 2013 with the City of Ottawa on their volunteer side, then branched out and took a job full-time job as a firefighter the OPG Pickering nuclear facility. Then, I returned to the volunteer side with Six Nations Fire in 2015. I’ve been working there as volunteer ever since. I took a chief training officer role in November of 2021.

Laura: What was it like coming into that role during pandemic restrictions? How did it change your approach to training?

Bryan: I started doing as much as we could virtually, just to get them involved. We didn’t have to do everything virtual because it’s emergency services — we could have brought them in — but I thought it was important to do all the theory, so I heavily loaded that portion. I’m a big proponent of virtual training. I think being at home is fantastic because people are so much more comfortable in their house to answer questions and be engaged. Part of it is up to the instructor, insofar as what you can pull out of them. I’ve had good results in my virtual classes with getting people involved. A big factor is being able to utilize the chat function. Typing allows introverts to be engaged without having to worry about you know, someone watching or listening, they can just put their comments chat function. I love that virtual part of it.

Laura: That’s an interesting point you brought up about virtual being perhaps a better fit for introverts. In a traditional classroom, there are typically outgoing people that tend to raise their hand to answer a lot of the questions.

Bryan: And they’re still going to pop into the virtual classes, but you’re going to get the other people, too. If I have a class of 20, now I expect to see 20 responses in the chat. That means everyone sends in the response. Cameras on, cameras off, I’ve done it both ways. Some people are comfortable on camera, some people aren’t, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all about getting people to be more interactive. There are times when being in class is good, too. But I think you can get just as much in a virtual class, and you don’t have to worry about the travel.

Laura: What would you like to see done differently in firefighter training?

Bryan: One of my big things that I would like to see in the fire service is for them to get away from the live burns. That’s a big passion of mine. There are studies upon studies out there about the number of firefighters getting cancers. I had a little light bulb thing go off as I’m setting up my yearly schedule and trying to figure out when these recruits are doing live burns. I started asking myself, why? What’s the purpose? We can have a wet drill where you can still pull your hose and knock down a “quote unquote” fire without having to be exposed to the carcinogens that we’re ingesting, absorbing through our skin, and breathing in. Live fire training, it’s not realistic. The stuff we burn doesn’t burn the same as you when you enter a structure with the plastics and other materials. The structures themselves are not realistic. They’re steel buildings or concrete buildings, for the most part. If the materials aren’t realistic and the buildings aren’t realistic, why risk our health? Even if it’s once a year or twice a year? Let’s do the wet drills, get them the muscle memory, then we can teach them some fire behavior through other avenues, and then get some virtual reality training if you really want to push them and give them different scenarios. I would like to see more virtual reality be used.

Laura: What are some of the most important elements you feel your recruits need to focus about fire behaviour?

Bryan: Being able to assess what’s happening from the outside through a proper 360. What colour are the windows? That gives you an indication of what stage the fire is at. We teach to touch the door, feel the heat. Open the door looking for your layers of smoke. That’s going to tell you how far that’s coming down from the ceiling or up from the floor. And we all know as soon as you open a door or window, you’re creating a flow path. You shouldn’t be caught off guard by it, for the most part. It’s that 360 on the outside. Do you have any conditions showing? If we have nothing showing, it doesn’t mean we don’t have fire. It’s giving them knowledge. The days of just running inside — I think we have to be smarter. We have to read so much from the outside before even we’ve made the entry.

I’m a big proponent of not trying to reinvent the wheel, I don’t want to make stuff up, I just want to learn from people’s experiences. You’ll find good mentors, people who have decades of experience. Learn from them, and then just pass it on. That was a big thing from FDIC that I picked up this year: pay it forward, pass it on. Be very forthcoming with all your info. Share everything because it’s going to potentially save someone’s life. I’ve seen a big culture change in the fire service with sharing information. With virtual training you could be on a meeting or course with people from different places sharing how they do things differently and that can open up a whole new realm of possibilities.

Laura: What are some of the challenges you facing in executing your vision of training for your new recruits?

Bryan: As a training officer, the challenge for me is keeping everything fresh, and getting them to do, every week, what we call our first five drill for a structure fire. You’re going to have to pull hose every week. That’s going to be tough for some people because they’re not going to want to pull hose in the middle of January or in the middle or August when it’s 40 degrees out with the humidex. It’s getting people to understand why we do it. And that’s part of what I’m trying to do — bring the education part in. And physical fitness is so important. If you really want to get down to the meat, potatoes, we’re not doing our job if we’re not making our own physical fitness the utmost priority. You’re limiting yourself by not being in shape.

I always have to keep motivating people and motivate myself to find better training for them.






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