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  • Vermilion Voice

Training International Firefighters


Platoon 2 students with Instructor, Don Kennan, during training on August 10. Photo Angela Mouly

Students travelled to Vermilion from all across Canada including British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario to join Platoon 2 and take part in the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 1001 - Level 1 course. The 12-week program will include levels 1 and 2, leaving the students as certified professional firefighters.

“It’s a job somebody has to do. From people not following the rules to mother nature, in all those extreme circumstances, the result makes it worthwhile,” said Team Lead, Don Keenan. “You need the best outcome you can get. When we arrive on the scene, somebody’s having a bad day. It’s a matter of timing; fire will go out, but it takes time and causes damage. An intervention can mitigate that, and we train to an internationally recognized standard.”

Currently in week two of 12, some of the students have some background, while others have none. They will train for scenarios including the worst/most probable, and similar to what they will face in the field, will have to make conscious choices based on the level of danger for each scenario.

They had previously learned the terminology, parts of the rope, breaking points, the equipment, and where you would attach the rope, as well as demoed knots all prior to hoisting. During their training session for hoisting and ropes/knots, instructors assisted and encouraged participants to work as a team as they lifted ladders, hose, a pike pole, an axe, a fan, and a chainsaw, into and out of a multi-level building. By tying ropes for maximum safety, they learned to raise the items to the second and third floors to prepare for whenever they may need additional items.

If hauling a ladder up without a tagline, Keenan said to have the knot inside (towards the building), and if hauling the ladder down without a tagline to have the knot on the outside of the ladder (away from the building) to not hit the window ledges, etc. He noted that a tag line will flip it.

“A big thing is proper knots so it is secure, and a proper tag line so it doesn’t fall and break the equipment,” said Training Officer, Dan Hutchinson. “Some of them are following in their family’s footsteps. One was a nurse and wanted to work the other side, and some transitioned from the ambulance. Comradery or team environment are major draws, as well as working and helping the community.”

Instructor Keenan has been involved in the fire service for 42 years and said he was exposed to it as a young man and thought it was wonderful, so he turned it into a career.

“When I stop to think about it, my class could be my kids or grandkids. We make it enjoyable, by practicing with the extinguisher. Like any sports team, we challenge the limits; and make them better people for pushing through their limits,” said Keenan.

For example, he noted when leary of the ground ladder, they were challenged to climb the ladder truck, and subsequently the ground ladder no longer seemed like a big deal.

“Going home is the most important thing about being a firefighter. There is a sign in the classroom that says, ‘The best thing an old firefighter can teach a young firefighter is to be an old firefighter.’” said, Keenan.

“At Vermilion I know it’s one of the top schools, and I loved that it was a hands-on experience; a lot of departments back the 1001 from Lakeland College. Having grown up in Westlock County, I started volunteering as a summer student at an Industrial Department by Redwater. I had a knack for some of the skills and fell in love with it there. “I’ve always done sports and love the comradery of the team; we’re a big family here,” said Livia Stutheit. “If there was ever an accident or something were to happen, these are the guys that are going to save us as well, so we rely on one another and we also spend a lot of time together; it’s really like getting another family away from your own. We are taught that no two calls will ever be 100 per cent the same, and I like that it’s never stagnant; you can always train to do something new or acquire specialty skills.”

She also said they are encouraged to get involved in the community and along with some of the EST students will be participating in an upcoming community garage sale. If you are interested in joining in the future, entry requirements include a Grade 12 diploma, air brake endorsement, and standard first aid/ CPR.

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