© Austin M. Davis
Firefighter Taylor Enns practiced his rope rescue with a dummy in the North Hill hose tower on Friday afternoon.
Firefighters take advantage of days without service calls
The Moose Jaw Fire Department responded to more calls in 2013 than in the past five years. But 2014 started with a rare dry spell.
On Jan. 15, the fire department hadn’t had an emergency call in four days. The last time that happened was May 2011.
“It’s so difficult to actually predict when you’re going to have emergency calls,” said Deputy Fire Chief Brian Wilson.
“There’s not really necessarily any rhyme or reason for it. It just sort of depends on how the luck falls for the people in our community, really. We’re a community service organization and when they need our help, they expect us to come.”
Wilson said Friday was a perfect example of productively using a day without service calls to benefit the fire department’s members.
“They’re obviously maintaining our fire hall and making sure that it’s cleaned, maintained and up-to-date,” Wilson said.
That includes testing and preparing equipment, and nearly constant training.
“The fire department really is, we’re sort of the big boys of Boy Scouts, really,” Wilson said. “We’re expected to be able to do ice rescue, high-angle rescue, hazardous materials, medical calls, structural firefighting or auto extrication.”
Members were recently practicing their swimming in preparation of the upcoming ice rescue course.
On Friday, firefighters at the North Hill station were practicing their high-angle training with the improvised rappelling setup inside the station’s hose tower.
Rope rescue, Wilson said, is one of those skills that gets lost if it’s not used.
Wilson said the modern fire department is responsible for so many aspects of emergency responding, firefighters really have to be jacks-of-all-trades.
“Then I sit here and dream up new and creative ways to keep challenging our members and making sure that we’re staying abreast of the latest technology and the newest and latest and greatest training aids,” Wilson said.
There’s a large printout on Wilson’s office wall that details a year-long training matrix. He said it’s the first of a four year rotation.
“The idea is that we’re always keeping up to speed with everything that’s going on in the service,” Wilson said.
He pointed to building construction as something that has changed since some of the fire department’s most experienced members were initially trained on the subject.
“Buildings today are built differently than they were 30 years ago,” Wilson said.
Wilson said some of Moose Jaw’s firefighters are challenging their fire officer programs. There are trainings and programs like that that aren’t even included in Wilson’s training matrix. The days without service calls allow members to keep up with the training schedule.
“The reality in the fire service is that we typically only engage maybe one per cent of the population that we serve,” Wilson said.
He said one of the misconceptions people have is that because they’re no often seeing the fire department in action, firefighters aren’t doing much.
“We’re seen when we’re needed,” Wilson said.
When they’re not needed, members of the Moose Jaw Fire Department are making sure all their skills are ready for the next call.