Brockville firefighters train with mobile fire unit

A new training tool has arrived at the Brockville Fire Department (BFD) for the week, helping firefighters prepare for unique situations and keep their skills top notch.

On Wednesday morning, firefighters were going through situations they might come across in a burning structure, like a couch fire.

“The flames, the smoke, the heat, it’s all there but it’s done in a safe and controlled environment,” said Brockville Fire Chief David Lazenby.

“The province invested significantly and wanted to take training to the fire departments across the province,” he added. “We are one of the first departments locally that’s been able to afford ourselves of the opportunity.”

A partnership with the Ontario Fire College, two of the trailer units are currently criss-crossing Ontario, helping departments train both new firefighters and veterans.

“It’s a great chance for them to kind of fast track their experience and develop their knowledge and skills and also for the more experienced firefighters to pass on the experience that they’ve gained the hard way over the years by attending the real fires,” Lazenby said.

The trailer can be used for many situations, including zero visibility search-and-rescue and hose management in a burning structure. There is even a faux roof on top for firefighters to practice ventilation techniques.

“It allows the firefighters to practice different scenarios, whether it’s a kitchen fire or a rollover with flames above their heads,” Lazenby added.

One firefighter demonstrated a survival scenario, showing what to do if a structure collapse is imminent, by doing a window bail and shimmying down a ladder.

A firefighter performs a window bail manoeuvre using the mobile fire training unit. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

Brockville Deputy Chief Chris Paul says, aside from training, the drills also create a team bond.

“It brings the guys together, right? Training is a big part of our business, you never stop training in the fire service, and it’s something that the guys really enjoy,” he said, adding even though the situation is controlled, it can still be dangerous.

“There is always an element of risk and that’s a factor that we are always considering,” Paul said. “Making sure that our safety officers ensure our guys have proper PPE, everything is done up, and then we’re monitoring the guys, keeping them hydrated throughout the day as well.”

A control room in the front of trailer is equipped with video monitors, watching every move the firefighters make.

A monitor shows a firefighter inside the mobile fire training unit with an active fire. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

“If something did occur that was unsafe and they needed a quick exit for the firefighters it can be controlled and ventilated quickly,” said Lazenby.

Inside the unit, it’s the real deal.

“It’s about 500 Fahrenheit in the ceiling and around, on average, 250 about five feet up—helmet height,” added Paul.

The unit will be in Brockville until Friday, with BFD allowing other volunteer fire departments from the area to also use it for training.

“With it being such a tremendous training opportunity, we invited our neighbours from Elizabethtown-Kitley, Augusta and Prescott fire departments,” said Lazenby.

“I have to live vicariously through our firefighters because it is a very enjoyable, realistic training and I wish I was doing it too,” he said with a smile.

“We’re always going to train like it’s a real-life situation,” said Paul. “What you do in training is what you’re going to do on the fire grounds, so it’s pivotal and important to make sure that we are executing exactly what we want to do on the fire ground here in training.

“It’s pulling those skills off the shelf that may not be used as frequently,” he added. “It gives us an opportunity to develop that muscle memory so that it’s first nature when we roll up at a scene.”

“I hope the residents find it incredibly reassuring,” added Lazenby. “They’ve got well-trained firefighters who are proud and professional and this is just to enhance their skills even more.” 

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