Beneficial training for department

The propane tree training prop simulates a well head fire or a fire on the side of a house after a natural gas line break.

The Swift Current Fire Department revealed the latest upgrades at its training grounds during a tour of the facility, Oct. 13.

The tour and demonstration of the new training props highlighted the diversity of scenario training available to firefighters at the facility.

The Swift Current Fire Department wants to develop this facility into a regional training site for use by their mutual aid partners and other fire departments, and these upgrades will help them to achieve that goal.

“What we want to do is to really promote the training, not just local, but regional,” Swift Current Fire Chief Ryan Hunter said after the tour during a media briefing. “We really want to have everyone know that we're here for everybody in the southwest to train, because we all work together.”

The Swift Current Fire Department will respond to mutual aid calls and he felt the large wildfire three years ago in the Burstall area really highlighted the importance of cooperation.

“You realize how tight a family you are when there’s fire departments from Alberta border all the way to here working together,” he said. “That's something that we really, really want to polish up and keep going.”

He felt it will not be practical for smaller fire departments to develop a training facility on a similar scale and it therefore makes sense to make this one available to them.

“It just doesn't make sense financially if you can have one training centre that everyone uses,” he said. “Then that takes the cost down for the city that has it and everyone gets to train and we get to train together.”

For fire departments in the southwest it will be easier to train at this Swift Current facility instead of travelling longer distances to train elsewhere.

“So it works for us to be a regional training ground here, because then fire departments aren't out of service five or six hours or the whole day, and it works to get back into their own area and back into service, because you just can't afford to have your fire department away from your city or town for a long period of time,” he said.

Hunter felt it is important for Swift Current firefighters to train with other departments from the region, because they will work with those firefighters during mutual aid calls.

“I really enjoy training with other departments, because those are the people that we're going to see out on the highway or out on the prairie fire or out on the grain bin rescue or whatever,” he said. “That's the people that we see. It's way better to have a rapport with them. So you see the face, you know the name, and you work together. It's something that just makes an emergency flow so much better when you're used to working with the person besides you.”

The training facility is located just east of Memorial Drive along Patterson Drive. The development of the training grounds has been a gradual process.

“We've had that compound for probably 12 to 14 years, but each year we try to put one extra piece on and one extra piece, and it's a slow process,” he said. “It's something that costs money. We do as much as we can to work with our business community. So they donate pieces and parts for us. … If we didn't have partners, we would be even farther behind in this, but each year we try to add a piece to the puzzle and right now we're getting to the point where we've got two or three more pieces and we've got an absolute first-class training ground in all of western Canada.”

The Swift Current Fire Department hosted the tour and demonstration for City management staff, current City council members, members of the business community that assisted with the creation of the new training props, and local media.

The new training props will make scenario training by firefighters very realistic to prepare them for what they will encounter during a real emergency event. Three of the new training props use liquid propane, which have been installed with various safety devices. There are three ways to shut off the flow of liquid propane to the training props.

“Two of them are electronic and the third one is manual, but once you take your hand off the scenario button, it's over,” he said. “It doesn't matter what happens, that locks down. So that's one of the features that the gas inspectors wanted to see, because when you deal with liquid propane, it can be so violent. They want all the safety procedures in place. We're the first ones that we're aware of and also that the inspectors are aware of, that have gone 100 per cent compliant with all of the codes.”

The training with the propane tree prop simulates a well head fire or a fire on the side of a house after a natural gas line break.

“We put a team of firefighters behind a charged hose line and they put it at about a 45-degree fog pattern, because that will help cool off the firefighters and blow heat away,” he explained. “They're not actually putting fire out. They're just getting close enough so that they can get to the valve and turn the valve off.”

The liquid propane is used on the other training props with an old vehicle and a steel container to simulate a fire on a road or train tanker, or a vehicle fire at an accident scene. This training can also include the procedure to retrieve a person from a burning vehicle.

The Swift Current Fire Department just acquired two grain bins, which will make a big difference in realistic training for grain bin rescues. One of the training scenarios will include the cutting of a triangle on the side of the bin to release grain as part of a rescue effort.

“It's an excellent opportunity to train with confined space as well as rope rescue, because that's what that is,” he said. “It's combined with the two, and there are agencies in Saskatchewan who can do the training, but they usually have to try to find someone who has the farm scenario that they're willing to have people train on their site, and they're certainly not letting people train to cut their bin. And with us, we can cut the bin, because we can keep on patching it with new pieces of steel.”

The grain bins were purchased at a discounted price from Janette Resch, who used to be an administrative assistant at the fire department, and her husband.

“They were very reasonable with us,” Hunter said. “As soon as we told them what they're going to be used for, instead of the price of each one, they gave them both for the price of one.”

He also appreciates the support of the business community that made the installation of the new training props possible. Pioneer Co-op provided a propane tank and another tank used for training. Diamond Energy Services supplied a steel tank for use as a training prop and is also planning to provide a decommissioned well head, which will replace the current propane tree and make the training even more realistic. PTW Energy Services assisted with the design and installation of the liquid propane system and safety features.

“The three business partners we've had with this propane scenario were absolutely phenomenal, how much they helped us out, and the southwest,” he said. “They helped all the fire departments who can train guys so that we're save and we can help the people that we respond to.”

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