Friday, October 2, 2009


Training. It's arguably the most important thing a firefighter does . . . other than put out fires and rescue people and get cats out of trees and . . . wait a minute . . . do firefighters really get cats out of trees? I say, leave 'em up there. For all we know, cats like being up in trees. We did do a sheep rescue once. But that's a story for a different day.

Back to training. If I could spend the rest of my working life (called career by normal people) training volunteer firefighters and avoiding my office, it would suit me just fine. Sure, the fire and rescue stuff is important, especially to the folks that have fires and need to be rescued. But ultimately, training is what gets the job done, and keeps the crews safe while they are doing it.

In my September 24 post I mentioned two Meaford, Ontario firefighters that nearly lost their lives in a fire earlier this month. What I didn't tell you was that these guys, and the crews that rescued them, had all been trained by top-notch instructors at the Ontario Fire College. One of them, Andrew Blair, is in Thunder Bay this weekend with four other instructors (including me) training volunteer firefighters at Thunder Bay's new state-of-the-art training site. The Meaford crew's testimony is that the training made the difference that day. One firefighter was dragged out without vital signs, and resuscitated at the scene. That's shaving things too close, but it's undoubtedly better to nearly die than almost survive.

The great thing about guys like Andrew is their adaptability. For many years we ran these courses in the field, using whatever facilities were available. It made for some creative training techniques, and compelled us to be flexible and innovative. Andrew's nickname is Etch, because we tell him his work plan is written on an etchi-sketch so he can wipe it out and remake it as whim or necessity dictate. Speaking of innovative people, click here for some researchers that got recognized for their out-of-the-box thinking.

If half the money spent on far-out studies were diverted to struggling volunteer fire departments, we'd have . . . well . . . the money isn't going to be diverted, so I guess we'll never know what we might have had.

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