Canadian Firefighter Magazine

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Rescue Reborn

A new auto ex event comes to Ontario

January 10, 2022
By Chad Roberts
Complete carnage during the simultaneous HOT pits! Photo credit: Chad Roberts

Inspiring others to leave the service better than when you first started. Giving back. Sharing what has been bestowed upon us from others. These shouldn’t just be things that are said or written down, but should motivate us every day.

When it comes to auto extrication and rescue as a whole, I’ve been fortunate to meet many intelligent and motivational figures that drive me to continue and share knowledge. I found myself wanting to start something bigger than just words, something that would not only bring like-minded individuals together, but continue to inspire others to step outside of their comfort zone and be the firefighter they envisioned themselves being when they first started in the job. 

Seems simple, right? And honestly, it’s not rocket science. A simple trip online to view what’s going on with FOOLS (The Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Society) groups all over North America, combined with some of my previous experiences I have had through the various competitions all over the word, made the solution clear to me. Just get everyone out and get work done. It’s the basis of our entire service; being together with others who share our interests and getting to work. It’s no secret that getting everyone back out after some lifted restrictions is a challenge in itself. Our brothers and sisters were afforded free time during the pandemic we’ve never been accustomed to and trying to pry that time away is no easy feat. 

Why is that a province such as Ontario, with one of the largest highway corridors in North America (large enough to warrant a national TV show), has not facilitated a rescue conference that helps identify issues, train and share knowledge in all things rescue related? 

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It always seemed puzzling to me, but this idea was the ticket. This is what has been needed for so many years, by so many of us wanting more. However, these events just don’t fall out of the sky and materialize, and they most certainly require more than one person to make it a reality. 

In comes the Markham Fire Department, their Fire Chief Adam Grant and their newly formed auto extrication team. While helping this team get their feet off the ground this year, the topic came up of some type of local rescue competition to fill our pandemic laden void, where teams from anywhere could come together in attempt to make use of the hard work of those continuing to train, and learn over that time. 

With about a month to plan, we put together the team from Markham Fire (Brad Sterling, Ray Lalonde, Howie Tse), and got to work on planning Ontario’s First Inaugural Rescue Challenge and Training Symposium. 

With support from all levels, the number one thing that needed to be taken care of was the site for the symposium and the vehicles needed. While this may seem simple enough, it is always the number one logistical issue that prevents these great events from happening. And when needed the most, Standard Auto Wreckers in Scarborough stepped up in a major way to not only provide the site and vehicles, but also the heavy machinery to set up our competitions and training scenarios. Owner David Gold made our event a reality, making nothing but accommodations for our group. 

Next up was our tool vendors. With representatives from 1200 Degrees, Holmatro, M&L Supply, Amkus, A.J. Stone and Dewalt able to attend, this provided us with ability for all the teams to sample and try out all the latest and greatest rescue tools on the market. Not only were they able to make use of the tools during the competition pits, these vendors were able to guide the attendees through the afternoon HOT pits (Hands-On-Training pits). 

After all the quick planning and help from team members, vendors, chief personnel and the wreckers on site, it was time for the event to finally take its inaugural flight. So, on the cold morning of Oct. 22, roughly 50 members from departments across the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario got together in hopes to compete, learn and train with one another for the first time in almost two years! Also, in attendance were fire management from Markham Fire, the Hogtown FOOLS, TERC Canada, Canadian Auto Recycler magazine, and many more supporters who came out to achieve what this event set out to accomplish: Learn something new, try something new, and meet someone new.  

Participants at the inaugural Ontario Rescue Challenge and Training Symposium.
Photo credit: Andrew Collins

The first half of the day was in the hands of the auto extrication teams from Oakville and Markham, who showcased their skills and truly gave everyone there an idea of how the world of extrication competitions really work. Through the direction of TERC Canada judges Ken Niceliu and Chad Hammer, both teams were given one unlimited scenario (where all tools available are able to be used), and one limited pit (no use of hydraulic tools permitted). The teams showed great skill and teamwork while navigating both scenarios set up by the staff of Standard Auto Wreckers. While these scenarios can bring out the competitiveness in the members, the true meaning of these events was ultimately accomplished. Being able to complete the scenarios in the allotted time is always a great feeling, but what both teams realized is that being humbled by the little mistakes or things they could have done better is what really matters and makes us better. 

Once the competitions were out of the way, it was time for the HOT pits. When I set out planning this event with the crew and management team from Markham, this was a must for our event. The idea of the competitions is great and can provide learning opportunities, but being able to offer the team members and other personnel who attended the ability to work with our vendors would be a lasting impression for everyone involved. Our great vendors were provided with multiple vehicles where different groups could rotate through and learn some new tips and tricks using anything from the newest Holmatro, Amkus, or Genesis tools, and even getting in some lifting techniques with the use of Paratech struts. Not only would this be a playground of destruction, the idea behind combining the competition with the HOT pits is that no matter how well or poorly a team or member did during the scenarios, they would all walk away having a great time training at the end of the day. 

All in all, when the long day of training, competing, and conversing with like-minded brothers and sisters had ended, there was nothing but positives that came out of the day. The event provided the opportunity for teams and firefighters across the province with a chance to get out and train for the first time in a long time, and it also gave us some great contacts and ideas for next year’s events and competitions. 

With the first year in the books, planning has already begun for next year in what hopes to be a bigger, better event that attracts more teams from not only Ontario, but from Canada wide and even the U.S. And while there will always be additions and different ideas tried, the premise of this event will remain the same:To take rescue teams in Ontario and all over well above that fine line between inadequacy and minimum standard. 

For more information about the Ontario Rescue Challenge and Training Symposium’s future events, please follow us or TERC Canada on Facebook for the most up to date 2022 announcements. 


 Chad Roberts is a firefighter in Oakville, Ont. He is a member of the Oakville extrication team and competes and trains across North America. Contact Chad at chadroberts12@gmail.com. 


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