Island firefighters get opportunity to train on mobile fire simulator

Crews approach the fire simulator with an initial water attack. photo by Mark Schraeder

NORTHEAST TOWN—Firefighters from across departments across Manitoulin gathered at the NEMI recreation centre parking lot in Little Current recently to undergo training on a wide variety of “evolutions,” learning the best-practice techniques for tackling various fire scenarios.

“It was pretty well received,” said Northeast Town fire chief Duane Deschamps of the training. “We set a number of records over the course of the weekend.”

One of those records was for the oldest participant in the training. “I asked one of the instructors who was the oldest individual they’ve had go through the training,” said Mr. Deschamps. “He pointed to Paul Richer, one of our own NEMI firefighters. Paul not only went through once, I believe he went through a couple of times over the weekend.”

“It was really something,” agreed Mr. Richer, who has engaged many fires over the course of his firefighting career with the municipality. “It was very realistic.”

Firefighters from Gore Bay, Tehkummah, Billings, Assiginack and M’Chigeeng took advantage of the opportunity to train on the mobile fire simulator.

“This was a great opportunity to take part in high quality training,” said Mr. Deschamps, “the unit provided invaluable training.” He explained that the unit set up in the NEMI rec centre parking lot is one of two in the province. “There is one in Northern Ontario and another in southern Ontario,” said Mr. Deschamps. The simulation units were envisioned when the Ontario Fire College was disbanded and have proven to be a welcome alternative—in some ways better than the college in that travel and accommodation for the firefighters is not required, making the training very cost effective.

“There was no real cost, the training was free,” said Mr. Deschamps. “We only had to pay for a few lunches.”

In future, there may be some small costs associated with the training unit, primarily propane and smoke bombs. “The unit probably burns through around $1,000 in propane over the course of the weekend, and maybe another $100 in smoke.” Those costs pale in comparison to providing transportation, meals and lodging for trainees being sent off-Island to take part in a college.

The unit provided the opportunity to train on seven different “evolutions,” among them basement fires, kitchen fires, search and rescue, attic fires and working in heat and low to no visibility, with a very high degree of realism. “Really, it was all of the kinds of things you would learn at the college,” said Mr. Deschamps. In addition, two very experienced instructors (one an ex-full-time Sudbury firefighter and the other a full-time firefighter serving in a southern Ontario department) were on hand to shepherd the firefighters through the evolutions. “Some of the guys from the other departments were very new,” he said. “I am not sure if a few of them have even been to their first fire.” Being able to experience a realistic training exercise will go a long way toward keeping firefighters experienced and new safe while tackling the real thing, he noted.